Lawyers for indicted Rep. Rick Quinn have moved to kick special prosecutor David Pascoe off his ongoing State Grand Jury public corruption probe, according to multiple sources familiar with the issue.
The request to expel Pascoe from Quinn’s prosecution will be aired at a public hearing Tuesday at the Richland County courthouse before State Grand Jury Judge Knox McMahon.
Earlier this week, Quinn became the fourth sitting state lawmaker to be indicted in Pascoe’s probe, which is said to be heating up. Future indictments are in the works, sources familiar with the investigation have said.
The specific issues on which Quinn’s lawyers seek to disqualify Pascoe could not be learned on Thursday. But Greg Harris, an attorney for Quinn, R-Lexington, told a State newspaper reporter earlier this week that his client “has done nothing wrong whatsoever” and that Pascoe’s actions have been highly questionable.
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“We are litigating whether they (Pascoe) had in place appropriate procedures to protect Rick’s constitutional rights. That’s what is scheduled for next Tuesday,” Harris said.
Reached Tuesday night, Harris declined to elaborate.
“That’s all I can comment on until the court unseals certain documents,” Harris said.
Harris did say, however, that Tuesday’s hearing will also include an arraignment – a formal reading of charges – and a bond hearing for Quinn. Quinn, 51, who has no criminal record and a history of being an upstanding citizen who lives locally, is expected to receive little or no bond.
Pascoe also declined comment on Tuesday’s hearing.
But Jay Bender, an attorney for The State newspaper, on Thursday wrote a letter to McMahon, asking McMahon to unseal any motions that might have been made in connection with the upcoming Tuesday hearing.
“It is my understanding that a motion (or motions) seeking the disqualification of Solicitor David Pascoe in connection with the Quinn indictment has been filed under seal,” wrote Bender, who based his statements on information gathered by the State newspaper’s newsroom.
“South Carolina has a long history of maintaining open records,” Bender wrote, citing a law that any motion to disqualify a special prosecutor appointed by the state attorney general “shall be held in public.”
Bender continued, “Holding a hearing open to the public while sheltering the motion provoking the hearing seems inconsistent with the Constitution and the relevant statutory and judicial commands of openness. ... the public’s interest in being assured of the integrity of the process outweighs any individual interest that might be asserted by the prosecution or defense.”
As required by court regulations, Bender notified Pascoe and Harris of his letter to McMahon.
Pascoe later called Bender and said he, Pascoe, had no objection to opening any motion made about the hearing, Bender said.
Matters concerning the State Grand Jury are usually confidential. However, matters involving procedure – and not evidence that investigators are uncovering – can be made public.
Pascoe, the 1st Judicial Circuit Solicitor who was named special prosecutor by Attorney General Alan Wilson, is heading up a small team of veteran agents from the State Law Enforcement Division.
Last year, Wilson tried to stop Pascoe from continuing his investigation, claiming Pascoe was overstepping his authority by trying to activate a State Grand Jury, with its powerful subpoena powers. But the S.C. Supreme Court rebuffed Wilson’s attempt, allowing Pascoe to go forward. Since then, three lawmakers have been indicted in the probe.
So much evidence has been gathered that Pascoe has sworn in three additional elected solicitors – the 9th Circuit’s Scarlett Wilson, the 16th’s Kevin Brackett and the the 14th’s Duffie Stone. Pascoe is a Democrat; the other three are Republicans.
One trove of evidence gathered by Pascoe’s investigators involves a cache of documents and other data gathered from a surprise raid earlier this spring on the Columbia area political consulting offices of Quinn and his father, Richard Quinn. Law officers served a search warrant and carted off what is likely to be evidence in the case.