Lawyers for former state Rep. Jim Harrison are accusing special prosecutor David Pascoe of plotting revenge against the Columbia Republican because he has refused to plead guilty to misconduct and conspiracy charges.
Pascoe and his fellow prosecutors “acted with actual malice and vindictiveness” last week when a state grand jury indicted Harrison on another charge — perjury, wrote Harrison’s lawyers, Reggie Lloyd and Hunter Limbaugh.
Prosecutors are upset Harrison is “exercising his Sixth Amendment right to trial,” Harrison’s lawyers wrote. Harrison has proclaimed his innocence since he was indicted last October. In their motion, his lawyers seek to have a judge dismiss the perjury charges.
Harrison, 67, a state representative from 1989 to 2012, is scheduled to stand trial in Richland County on Oct. 22 on charges of misconduct in office and criminal conspiracy. The charges stem from secret payments to Harrison by the Richard Quinn & Associates political consulting firm, run by veteran political operative Richard Quinn, long a kingmaker in S.C. GOP politics.
The payments averaged roughly $80,000 a year from 1999 to about 2012. During those years, Harrison was the chairman of the S.C. House Judiciary Commission. That put him in a position to block or help legislation of interest to many of the Quinn firm’s clients, including ATT, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Palmetto Health hospitals, SCANA, the University of South Carolina and others.
“The (perjury) indictment returned nearly on the virtual eve of trial is merely a vindictive tantrum meant to punish Harrison,” the former state representative’s lawyers wrote.
Pascoe declined comment except to say he will file a response. Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman will decide the motions.
Harrison’s lawyers also have filed a motion asking Newman to delay releasing to the public up-to-now confidential state grand jury report on potentially corrupt practices in the S.C. General Assembly.
Pascoe has asked that report be released to the public.
However, in their motion, Harrison’s lawyers said they feared disclosure of the report before his trial could result in “prejudicial pretrial publicity.” The lawyers want to review the report, adding they may object to its public release if they think the report could hurt Harrison’s right to a fair trial.
Earlier this summer, Lloyd and Limbaugh tried but failed to get Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen to dismiss all charges against Harrison. Mullen rejected that motion.