October 23, 2014

New hearing scheduled in Harrell case amid rumors he will plead guilty

A booking shot taken of Harrell prior to his arraignment last month (Image: 1st Circuit Solicitor's Office)

A booking shot taken of Harrell prior to his arraignment last month (Image: 1st Circuit Solicitor’s Office)

Suspended South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, will appear in court tomorrow, but neither side is saying why.

A 10:30 a.m. Thursday hearing in state court, announced roughly 20 hours in advance sparked whispers about the future of a man who had once been one of South Carolina’s most powerful lawmakers.

Two newspapers (Charleston Post & Courier and The State newspaper) cited anonymous sources when they reported Wednesday evening that Harrell plans to plead guilty during the hearing. South Carolina Radio Network as a rule does not use anonymous sourcing for its reports, but can confirm 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe announced the hearing under circumstances that do match those of a typical guilty plea.

But neither prosecutors nor Harrell’s legal team are commenting until the hearing itself.

Harrell was indicted last month on nine counts related to accusations that he misused campaign funds and lied to state ethics officials in an attempt to cover it up. Prior to his arraignment, the Speaker had repeatedly insisted he did not intentionally violate the law.

If he were to plead guilty, Harrell would likely have to resign his leadership position and seat in the House. He suspended himself a day after his indictment, leading Speaker pro tempore Jay Lucas to take over as acting House Speaker. However, the Attorney General’s Office has maintained Harrell was automatically suspended as soon as the indictment was handed down by a grand jury.

Rubio talks American Dream at Columbia fundraiser

Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to an SCGOP fundraiser in Columbia on Wednesday

Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to an SCGOP fundraiser in Columbia on Wednesday

Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made another trip to South Carolina Wednesday, speaking at a state Republican Party fundraiser in Columbia.

During his stump appearance with fellow U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, Rubio spoke mostly about the “American Dream” and his fears that current government policies are causing many to give up on it. The son of Cuban immigrants also reiterated calls he’s previously made that he said would help improve opportunities for low-income children, such as private school choice and student loan reforms.

The appearance had the feel of a campaign speech, amidst rumors that Rubio will run for president in two years. The senator said afterwards he is focused on helping the GOP win control of the Senate in 2014, but will discuss his political future with his family after the election.

“The real decision for me will be based on where’s the best place to further the agenda that I believe so strongly in,” he told reporters afterwards. “And what I’ll have to decide is: where’s the best place for me to further that agenda?”

[Read more...]

Former Lancaster County sheriff arrested for allegedly taking items from former job

CauthenA former Lancaster County sheriff was arrested Tuesday on claims that he took a gun and laptop from the sheriff’s office when his term ended and never returned them.

58 year-old John Cauthen has been charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent after he allegedly carried off items belonging to the sheriff’s office when he retired.

Cauthen was booked after an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division. The charge is a misdemeanor that could carry a 30-day jail sentence or a $1,000 fine.

 

In July, Cauthen was arrested in Rock Hill after his neighbors claimed he fired slingshot pellets, marbles and paintballs at their house and car.

He was charged with one count of malicious damage to property over $2,000 and one count of damage to personal property, $2,000 or less.

 

Cauthen was sheriff of Lancaster County from 1997 until 2009, when he did not seek another term.

 

Fundraiser fined $1 million for illegal solicitation calls in SC

South Carolina’s Secretary of State has imposed a seven-figure fine against a professional fundraiser it accused of relying on robocalls to raise money.

Secretary of State Mark Hammond’s office said Wednesday that it had issued a more than $1 million fine against professional solicitor Strategic Fundraising, Inc., for numerous violations of the South Carolina Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act. The violations occurred in June

The violations included the prerecorded message not identifying the caller as a “professional” or “paid” solicitor, which state law requires. Other violations included misrepresentation and failure to register individual professional solicitors as required.

“What makes this case so egregious is that these were robo-calls in which the individual solicitors were using prerecorded scripts,” Hammond said in a statement. “This wasn’t a situation in which an individual caller made a mistake and went off script—these disclosure violations were a result of deliberate choices made by a professional fundraiser who was well-aware of the requirements of the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act.”

The Secretary of State’s Office said Strategic Fundraising, Inc. had already received several notices of violation, and even entered into a compliance agreement in 2009 in which it agreed to better follow state law.

“These mandatory disclosures are in place to protect South Carolina donors, so they know where their hard-earned money is going when they make a charitable contribution,” Hammond continued. “Individual solicitors are required to disclose criminal convictions involving fraud and theft—including identity theft—in their registration applications. If a professional fundraising company does not register its solicitors, then who knows who’s handling charitable donors’ personal information?”

Haley spends Greenville debate on defensive

Gov. Nikki Haley (File)

Gov. Nikki Haley (File)

The gloves came off at some points in Tuesday night’s debate among the five candidates hoping to be elected governor next month.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Nikki Haley found herself fending off verbal attacks from her challengers as questions moved away from what her campaign considers her strongest issue — the economy — and instead towards education, domestic violence, and Medicaid funding. The event at Furman University near Greenville was the last debate in the governor’s race before voters head to the polls in two weeks.

The debate also had a heightened intensity for the governor’s opponents, as a recent Charleston Post & Courier poll found Haley holds a 20-point lead over Democratic State Sen. Vincent Sheheen in the polls (51% to 31%). Independent petition candidate Tom Ervin was third in the survey with 11 percent support, while Libertarian nominee Steve French and the United Citizens Party’s Morgan Bruce Reeves were within the margin of error. Haley defeated Sheheen with 51 percent of the vote to 47 percent in the 2010 election. [Read more...]