A state judge will sentence former S.C. Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, Monday, following his mid-December guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of misconduct in office.
Quinn, 52, pleaded guilty on Dec. 13. His sentencing date has been up in the air since then. Quinn could be sentenced to up to one year in jail or probation, or a combination of the two.
Quinn will be sentenced at the Beaufort County courthouse in a hearing starting at 9:30 a.m.
As part of a negotiated plea deal, Quinn – who served some 20 years in the Legislature – resigned his House seat.
Also Monday, Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen likely will assess a fine against the Richard Quinn & Associates political consulting firm operated by Quinn’s father, Richard Quinn.
In December, that firm pleaded guilty to failing to register as a lobbyist. It could be fined up to $2,500.
As part of a negotiated plea deal, the 73-year-old Richard Quinn, for years an adviser to some of South Carolina’s most influential politicians, also agreed to testify before a State Grand Jury investigating State House corruption.
State Grand Jury clerk Jim Parks confirmed the time and place of Monday’s sentencing hearing.
The hearing likely will mark the public end to weeks of a behind-the-scenes legal fighting between special prosecutor David Pascoe and Rick Quinn’s three lawyers – Greg Harris, Matthew Richardson and Johnny Gasser.
Issues in that dispute include:
▪ What did Rick Quinn plead guilty to?
When Quinn entered his guilty plea on Dec. 13, Pascoe described a broad conspiracy over seven years that netted $4 million. However, Quinn only admitted to one charge – failing to report that a business he was associated with received a $28,063 payment from the University of South Carolina.
In court filings, Pascoe now claims Quinn’s guilty plea is invalid because the former legislator didn’t specifically say he intended to not report the USC payment. If Quinn doesn’t admit he intended to break the law, Mullen should throw his guilty plea out, Pascoe argues.
Quinn’s lawyers assert their client, in fact, has admitted to a crime.
▪ What sentence should Quinn get?
In filings before Mullen, Quinn’s lawyers cite eight S.C. cases where high-profile public officials and employees have pleaded guilty to various offenses and only received probation.
Pascoe contends Quinn’s case is different and he deserves prison.
▪ Have lawyers on each side acted properly?
In court filings, Pascoe accuses Quinn’s lawyers of making “false” claims during the Dec. 13 guilty-plea hearing.
In response, Quinn’s lawyers have accused Pascoe of “improperly” seeking to undermine the former House majority leader’s guilty plea by making “reckless and unsupported allegations.”
‘No one more corrupt’
Pascoe has been leading an investigation into State House corruption since 2014.
In addition to the Quinns, that investigation has produced two other guilty pleas. Former S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty to improperly reimbursing himself from his campaign account and resigned from office. Former state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, pleaded guilty to misconduct in office and also resigned.
Another elected official, state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, is scheduled to go on trial in March on charges of misconduct in office.
Two other former state representatives also have been indicted by Pascoe’s State Grand Jury but no trial date has been set.
In Rick Quinn’s case, prosecutors charged he hid more than $4 million in payments that he or his father’s firm received from companies or groups with issues before the Legislature, using that money to buy influence and push legislation through the General Assembly.
"There has been no one more corrupt than Rick Quinn up there in Columbia, and no entity more corrupt that RQA." Pascoe told Judge Mullen at Quinn’s Dec. 13 guilty-plea hearing.
However, Quinn and his lawyers said he was pleading guilty and resigning to bring finality to an investigation that had traumatized his family and to spare his aging father from an exhausting trial.