Attorneys representing South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell say the State Grand Jury has ended its investigation of him after Attorney General Alan Wilson removed himself from the case.
Wilson’s move allows him to pass future responsibility on the matter along to a Solicitor of his choice. Harrell and his attorneys have argued since January that Wilson should not be allowed to prosecute the case due to a conflict of interest. Harrell has also maintained his innocence and said the investigation against him is “politically motivated.”
Harrell’s staff sent out an email to news outlets shortly after the Speaker revealed the decision to the House Republican Caucus.
While the state Supreme Court ruled last month the Attorney General’s Office does have the legal authority to present evidence before the grand jury, a circuit judge was to consider whether Wilson could personally handle the case.
“It has also been confirmed to us that the Attorney General has removed himself from my case and appointed (1st Circuit) Solicitor David Pascoe to handle it,” Harrell said in a statement. “The Attorney General made the decision to take these actions without any consultation or communication with my attorneys or me.”
A spokesman said the Attorney General’s Office could not comment or confirm the news because the Supreme Court had ordered it “not to disclose these matters.”
Attorneys representing the Speaker have previously claimed Wilson made an implicit threat against Harrell. An aide to the Speaker claimed Wilson referenced the ongoing investigation while seeking Harrell’s support on a new anti-corruption unit at the time. Wilson denies any quid pro quo and said the conversation was not meant as a threat.
Harrell said the Attorney General actually recused himself a month ago, but the Speaker said he did not learn about the move until July 29.
“I have said from the beginning that I violated no law and have only sought an independent prosecutor free of political motives and influence,” he said in the statement. “I hope these events accomplish that.”
Several groups filed an ethics complaint against Harrell last year, claiming he misused campaign funds and abused his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives to benefit a pharmaceutical business he owns. Wilson’s office referred the complaint to the State Law Enforcement Division. The AG’s Office then turned the investigation’s findings over to the State Grand Jury in January.