Toward the end of his presentation to a state judge Wednesday, special prosecutor David Pascoe turned his sights to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s relationship with the political empire of Rick Quinn and the Quinn political empire.
“These next slides, your honor, demonstrate not only the corruption on the part of Rick Quinn and Richard Quinn & Associates, but their contempt for this process, and their attempts to influence the investigation and attempts to influence the judiciary,” Pascoe told Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen.
In October 2014, for example, Richard Quinn helped Wilson draft a letter to remove Pascoe from the State House corruption probe. Even as he got Quinn’s help, Wilson knew the probe’s potential targets included the Quinns, his longtime political advisers, and their political consulting firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, Pascoe told the judge.
“Weeks after I told them (the attorney general’s office) that Rick Quinn needed to be investigated, after SLED told them that he needed to be investigated, they are getting Richard Quinn & Associates to draft a letter to remove me from the case,” Pascoe said.
Pascoe then showed a slide of a Quinn-edited draft of a letter removing the special prosecutor from the case.
That slide and others were shown to Judge Mullen on Wednesday during Rick Quinn’s guilty plea to misconduct in office from 2010 to April of this year. During that hearing, the Richard Quinn & Associates political consulting firm also pleaded guilty to one count of failing to register as a lobbyist.
Meanwhile, charges of criminal conspiracy and failing to register as a lobbyist were dropped against Richard Quinn in return for his agreement to testify before the state grand jury in January.
‘Alan Wilson’s in the crosshairs’
Pascoe is clearly interested in hearing what Richard Quinn will say about Wilson and his efforts to stop the special prosecutor from investigating the Quinns, said John Crangle, a lawyer and ethics expert who has written a book on the 1990s “Lost Trust” State House corruption scandal.
“I’m sure evidence will be presented to the grand jury about what Alan Wilson has been doing in conjunction with the Quinns,” Crangle said.
“Alan Wilson’s in the crosshairs,” Crangle said. “At best, Wilson’s conduct has been questionable and, at worst, improper conduct. It is possible obstruction of justice, in that it might be part of a pattern of conduct about which we only know fragmentary evidence.”
But more facts are needed to judge Wilson’s conduct, Crangle said. And that is where Richard Quinn’s testimony before the grand jury is vital, he added.
Wilson, a Lexington Republican and the son of 2nd District U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, denies any wrongdoing
Thursday, the attorney general’s office authorized Creighton Waters, the chief prosecutor of the state grand jury, to respond to Pascoe’s comments.
“At no time ... has the attorney general ever told me to ... pull punches on any sort of an investigation,” Waters said.
Wilson himself responded late Thursday to Pascoe’s statements: “I’m not going to engage in this game of innuendo and conjecture that came out in court. I’m very proud of the fact that I and the men and women of this office have conducted ourselves with the utmost integrity and have worked tirelessly to make sure every step in this process has been above reproach.”
‘The attorney general must go’
But Wilson – who is running for re-election as attorney general next year – is coming under intense criticism from his opponents in June’s GOP primary.
“It is clear the attorney general must go,” said Greenville attorney William Herlong, who attended Wednesday’s hearing.
Another candidate, state Rep. Todd Atwater, R-Lexington, said if he is elected attorney general, “On Day 1, I will form a public corruption unit to root out those who have betrayed the trust of the people. ...
“I will personally have to take the lead of cases like this and I will not have to recuse myself,” Atwater added, a shot at Wilson.
In 2014, Wilson recused himself from investigating former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, during the first phase of the State House corruption probe, citing the appearance of unspecified conflicts.
Pascoe, who was appointed special prosecutor, landed a guilty plea to a charge of official misconduct from Harrell in October 2014.
Then, the special prosecutor wanted to investigate Rick Quinn, who — like Harrell — had been named in a confidential 2013 SLED report about possible State House corruption. But Wilson’s office stepped in to take over the investigation until mid-2015, when Pascoe was allowed to resume his investigation.
In 2016, as Pascoe and a team of SLED investigators investigated the Quinns, the special prosecutor sought to convene a state grand jury to use its special subpoena powers to get documents, including emails. However, Wilson and his office sought to fire the special prosecutor, saying Pascoe had usurped the attorney general’s power by trying to convene the state grand jury.
That claim went to the S.C. Supreme Court, which ruled Pascoe had the authority to use the grand jury. In March, using grand jury subpoenas, SLED agents raided the Quinns’ Columbia offices, seizing a trove of emails and other documents that were crucial evidence in Wednesday’s guilty pleas.
‘We’re going to find out a lot’
“There has been no one more corrupt than Rick Quinn in Columbia, and no entity more corrupt than Richard Quinn & Associates,” Pascoe told Judge Mullen, asking her to give Quinn the maximum penalty – a year in prison.
Saying the issues were complex, Mullen deferred Quinn’s sentencing until a later, unspecified date.
However, Mullen asked Pascoe whether the plea-bargain deal to drop all charges against Richard Quinn, the alleged mastermind of the wide-ranging scheme to rake in millions by selling legislative votes and influence, was worthwhile.
“Absolutely,” Pascoe said, indicating his investigation has more targets in its sights. “Richard Quinn is going to testify before the grand jury next month. We’re going to find out a lot.
“And if he doesn’t tell the truth, he’s going to get indicted for perjury.”