Longtime State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, has been indicted by the State Grand Jury, according to a report.
The State newspaper reports that Courson’s lawyer released the information Thursday night. According to the attorney, Courson plans to fight charges of misconduct in office and conversion of campaign funds to personal use. The indictments will be made public Friday morning, according to the report.
Courson’s lawyer Rose Mary Parham of Florence contacted the newspaper about the indictment in order to counter what she thinks will be negative publicity once the charges are officially released.
Indictments were later announced by First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe’s office. According to the indictments, Courson is accused of funneling more than $250,000 in campaign cash through a firm linked to South Carolina political consultant Richard Quinn. According to the indictment, the firm then returned about $133,000 of that money to Courson through various payments.
Parham said Courson will fight the charges, and released this statement on his behalf: “These allegations are completely false. I have done nothing wrong. I value my integrity and have spent all of my years as a public servant embracing the highest standards of ethical conduct. I believe the most important things one leaves behind in this life are one’s children and one’s reputation. While it is unfortunate to be charged by a partisan Democrat under questionable motives and authority, I have no doubt that I will be cleared and exonerated of these accusations.”
Courson’s attorney also attacked Pascoe, a Democratic solicitor, calling the indictments “a partisan witch hunt.” “Unfortunately, in today’s world any politically motivated prosecutor can go to a grand jury and get an indictment without presenting the other side of the story,” Parham said in a follow-up release after the indictments were publicly revealed Friday morning. She said Courson is “ready” for a jury to “sift through the smoke, the mirrors, and the politically motivated accusations.”
The 72-year-old has served in the Senate since 1985. He would be the third lawmaker indicted in a wide-ranging probe of alleged public corruption in the General Assembly. That probe, spearheaded by First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe at the request of state Attorney General Alan Wilson has already obtained indictments against former House Speaker Bobby Harrell in 2014 and State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, in December on ethics-related or misconduct charges.
Courson’s indictment shocked many in the Statehouse, even Democrats, by surprise. Courson is highly respected by parties and — unlike Harrell or Merrill — had never been publicly linked to the probe before Friday. He had even received an award from the government watchdog Common Cause in 2013 for his efforts to pass an ethics reform law that put tougher restrictions on how legislators could use or report campaign contributions.