House Speaker Bobby Harrell and his supporters have been complaining since January about the news release that Attorney General Alan Wilson sent out announcing that he was referring the SLED investigation into Mr. Harrell’s conduct to the State Grand Jury.
Their complaint even made the way into court documents, and during Tuesday’s oral arguments before the state Supreme Court, Chief Justice Jean Toal made repeated reference to the news release and the fact that the court doesn’t normally even know that a Grand Jury has been empaneled.
“I find that unprecedented,” she said at one point. “I’ve never heard of having a news release to announce you’re going to submit something to the grand jury, ever.”
Perhaps she hasn’t, not being in the line of work that would land her on the distribution lists for press releases. But I distinctly recalled a previous submitted-to-the-Grand-Jury news release, and a quick search of my emails turned it up:
Columbia, S.C. - July 20, 2011 Attorney General Alan Wilson announced today he has concluded his review of the information he requested from the State Ethics Commission regarding Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard.
“I have reviewed the information with a team of prosecutors in my office, and have concluded that this case is properly within the investigative jurisdiction of the state grand jury. That process will begin immediately.”
South Carolina law allows the attorney general to petition for a matter to be considered by the state grand jury when he and the Chief of SLED determine that “normal investigative or prosecutorial procedures are not adequate.” [Section 14-7-1630(B)] The petition must be approved by the circuit judge assigned to the state grand jury.
Wilson stressed that state law prohibits any discussion of matters before the state grand jury.
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Contact: Mark Plowden
I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten other such news releases over the years, but I can’t swear it, it’s not worth going through my old emails to try to track them down, and in any event I probably would have deleted them, since they didn’t involve the lieutenant governor or the speaker of the House.
But clearly Mr. Harrell’s referral to the Grand Jury wasn’t the first one Mr. Wilson had announced. And it wasn’t even as detailed as the Ard announcement, which also generated significant news coverage:
January 13, 2014
In response to various inquiries to this Office regarding the status of the Speaker Bobby Harrell matter, this is to advise that it is being referred to the State Grand Jury.
No further comment will be forthcoming from this Office due to State Grand Jury secrecy requirements.
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J. Mark Powell