The special prosecutor tasked with investigating legislative corruption was removed from the case on Monday, with the state attorney general’s office citing an “obvious abuse of power.”
In a letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Chief Deputy Attorney General John McIntosh told solicitor David Pascoe that he was “deeply troubled” the prosecutor had tried to open a state grand jury probe into a redacted portion of a state police report without proper authority.
“Only the attorney general may convey the authority to initiate a state grand jury and you have neither sought nor received such authority,” McIntosh wrote.
He said Pascoe had not returned his phone call to talk about the case. “Rather than seeking explicit authority for a state grand jury investigation, you sought to initiate that investigation surreptitiously with respect to this office,” he said.
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In 2014, Attorney General Alan Wilson designated Pascoe to head up prosecution against former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor campaign spending violations and resigned.
State prosecutors have said that the probe is ongoing, but no lawmakers have been charged. In a December 2013 report by the State Law Enforcement Division, 11 of the 42 pages were completely or mostly blacked out. The agency cited a provision in the public records law that exempts releasing information to be used in a future or likely law enforcement action.
State grand jury matters are conducted in secret, and filings associated with them are not publicly available. But earlier Monday, The State newspaper cited documents filed with the state Supreme Court in which Pascoe said he wanted to utilize the state grand jury but was being obstructed by Wilson.
In his letter, McIntosh referenced the story, saying Pascoe “sued the clerk of the state grand jury” to get his way in proceeding with his own investigation. In a statement provided to AP, Wilson said that “multiple media leaks,” combined with “an obvious abuse of power” led him to fire Pascoe.
McIntosh’s letter did not indicate which prosecutor will be appointed to take Pascoe’s place.
“This action in terminating you has nothing to do with the merits of the underlying investigation, but is based upon my conclusion that all prosecutors must follow the law,” McIntosh wrote.