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Prosecutor returns corruption probe to S.C. attorney general

COLUMBIA (AP) — A special prosecutor who pursued public corruption cases against several South Carolina politicians turned over his remaining caseload to state Attorney General Alan Wilson on Wednesday.
In a letter to Wilson, Solicitor David Pascoe wrote that “procedural confusion” spawned by a South Carolina Supreme Court decision overturning one of his convictions led to the suspension of the probe, The State newspaper reported.
In January, a divided South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Pascoe – appointed by Wilson as special prosecutor in 2014 – had overstepped his authority, saying that the solicitor only had legal jurisdiction to go after some, but not all, of the lawmakers against whom he brought charges.
In that ruling, the court threw out a misconduct in office conviction but upheld an 18-month prison sentence for former Rep. Jim Harrison, who had appealed 2018 convictions on misconduct in office and perjury.
The probe began seven years ago as an investigation into ex-House Speaker Bobby Harrell spending campaign money on personal expenses.
The investigation then found political consultant Richard Quinn Sr. and his son, former Rep. Richard Quinn Jr., took more than $4 million from lobbyists to illegally influence legislators.
Quinn Jr., who was once House Majority leader, pleaded guilty and the probe into his firm led to criminal charges against former Rep. Jim Merrill, who took Quinn’s place as Majority leader. They both received probation.
Former state Sen. John Courson also pleaded guilty to using Quinn’s consulting firm to convert campaign contributions into money for himself. He is awaiting sentencing. The remaining cases being handed back to Wilson also include Quinn Sr., awaiting trial on perjury charges, and former state Rep. Tracy Edge, charged with misconduct and perjury.
All the lawmakers convicted are Republicans. Harrison was the only one to go to trial.
Attorney General Wilson initially stepped aside when the investigation involved just Harrell, Quinn and Merrill, citing a conflict in interest since Quinn’s firm had been Wilson’s political consultant when he was first elected in 2010.
When Pascoe expanded the probe to more lawmakers, Wilson objected. He had said he didn’t give permission for that. The Supreme Court agreed.
A Wilson spokesman said the attorney general will decide “the best course of action that ensures justice is served” after motions related to the high court’s ruling are resolved.

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