Tax returns, at least seven laptop and desktop computers, SCANA records and emails concerning an unspecified investigation were among materials seized during a March 2 surprise State Law Enforcement Division raid on the Columbia offices of the public relations firm of Richard Quinn & Associates, according to court records released late Friday afternoon.
The tax returns were for “Richard Quinn Sr. and wife,” according to an inventory made of a motherlode of 54 items seized during the SLED search. Some of the items may have contained numerous pages of printed material, but the inventory did not have that kind of detail.
Other items gathered up by SLED in the March 2 raid included eight thumb drives, one labeled “Rick Quinn,” a backup harddrive, “RQA financial documents,” “RQA payroll documents” and “RQA deposit records.”
Another item was “Conservative Leadership Project Tax & Financial Records, Bank & Tax documents.” Other files pertained to some of South Carolina’s largest corporations: SCANA and BlueCross BlueShield, and included a “proposal for the University of South Carolina,” according to the inventory.
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The description of items seized is the most detail yet made public about the raid on the Gervais Street offices of prominent longtime public relations consultant Richard Quinn.
The search was ordered by special prosecutor David Pascoe. Under the auspices of the State Grand Jury, Pascoe and SLED have been investigating allegations of public corruption in the S.C. General Assembly. Since December, Pascoe has indicted three sitting lawmakers, all prominent Republicans. All pleaded not guilty.
Richard Quinn, 72, through his Richard Quinn & Associates, has ties to numerous local, state and federal public officials. Records at his office might help Pascoe and SLED investigators as they continue their probe.
In mid-May, Pascoe’s State Grand Jury indicted Quinn’s son, Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington. His offices were located in his father’s headquarters, and the seized material also included some items said to belong to Rick Quinn.
Late Friday afternoon, the search warrant inventory for items seized by SLED was made public by state Judge Knox McMahon. The judge was responding to a longstanding request by State newspaper lawyer Jay Bender to open certain records pertaining to the ongoing public corruption investigation.
Up to now, Pascoe and his investigators have not had access to the items in the March 2 raid to use them for investigative purposes. The items will remain in a legal limbo, sealed off from Pascoe, until McMahon rules on defense motion by the Quinns’ lawyers to deny Pascoe and the SLED investigators access to them. Defense lawyers contend the March 2 search was unlawful.
The behind-the-scenes legal wrangle began right after the SLED raid, when defense lawyers filed numerous sealed motions contesting the search’s legality. Pascoe replied, asserting the search was legal and he should be able to use the seized material. McMahon kept those motions secret until Friday, releasing them at the newspaper’s request.
When The State learned about the behind-the-scenes legal battle between Pascoe and defense lawyers, Bender wrote a letter to McMahon, reminding the judge that legal disputes such as this one – where procedures, rather than details of potential evidence, are discussed – are public under longstanding state and federal law.
McMahon has not ruled on defense motions to disqualify Pascoe from the case and exclude from evidence items seized at the Quinn offices by SLED and to return to the Quinns all seized items.
The more than 100 pages of documents Friday also reveal a fierce legal battle between Pascoe and the Quinns’ defense lawyers Debbie Barbier, Greg Harris and Matthew Richardson.
Defense lawyers asserted that Pascoe did not have a proper “taint team” in place to sift out confidential attorney-client material.
“You have now seized a substantial amount of the attorney-client privileged communications and work product prepared for the defense in this case,” according to a letter from Harris and Richardson to Pascoe on March 3, one day after the search.
But Pascoe retorted, in a March 4 email to SLED agents that the defense assertion “that we do not have a taint team protocol is blatantly false and I will set them straight on that fact.”
AMONG THE ITEMS SEIZED
RQA financial recrods
RQA payroll documents
First Impressions tax returns
City of Columbia business license information
Mail Marketing Strategies financial and tax records
Richard Quinn Sr. and wife tax returns
Copy Shop financial records
Southern Partisan financial records
RQA deposit books
The Buzz media article reference SLED report
SC Ports Authority findings report
BlueCross BlueShield report
Proposal for University of South Carolina
First Impressions lease