Monday, December 9, 2013

SLED inquiry into Speaker Harrell now in AG's hands

“I’m looking forward to having all of this behind us," Harrell says

Posted by Corey Hutchins on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 1:08 PM

A “voluminous” report by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division about Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston is in the hands of GOP Attorney General Alan Wilson, an AG spokesman said today.

State police agents have been investigating the Speaker since last winter after a group of activists urged Wilson to look into Harrell's campaign spending and whether he abused his power. S.C. Policy Council president Ashley Landess outlined a list of ways in which she believed Harrell might be violating the state's ethics laws and delivered it to Wilson. Widespread attention to Harrell came after the Post & Courier ran a series of stories beginning last September that raised questions about how Harrell handled his campaign money. Specifically, Harrell had reimbursed himself hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign account with much of the money going to operate a private plane he pilots. Among other issues, Landess also questioned whether it was proper for Harrell to appoint his brother to a state government panel that screens judges in the state. Harrell has said repeatedly he did not violate any laws.

The attorney general's office is shying away from using the term “investigation." Rather, they're dubbing the report's findings a “preliminary inquiry” into Harrell, which is how SLED describes it, says Wilson spokesman Mark Powell. That report is not public, he says.

Right now multiple prosecutors are reviewing SLED's findings. Depending on whether they feel it's something the attorney general should prosecute, it could end up before a state grand jury. When they've finished their review they'll send it to Wilson who will decide whether to prosecute or not.

As for a timeline for when the public might know what comes next, it's hard to say. “It's like soup: when it's done it's done,” Powell says. “The ball's in play.”

Harrell has hired two of the state's top lawyers to defend him throughout the process, both of whom have extensive backgrounds in such investigations. One of them is former U.S. Attorney Bart Daniel, who prosecuted the Operation Lost Trust scandal of the early 1990s. The case sent shockwaves through the state when 17 lawmakers were indicted for vote-buying and bribery.

Daniel had no comment today on the new developments of the inquiry into his client. Harell's other attorney, Gedney Howe, was the defense counsel who represented the only indicted lawmaker involved in Lost Trust who wasn't convicted. He wasn't immediately available for comment.

For his part, Harrell says he's glad the report is finally in Wilson's hands.

“I’m looking forward to having all of this behind us,” Harrell said today through a spokesman.

Tags: , , ,


Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Classified Listings

Powered by Foundation   © Copyright 2018, Charleston City Paper   RSS