The lead prosecutor for the Rock Hill region has recused himself from a potential investigation of South Carolina’s newest congressman, even as that Republican lawmaker says the investigation is politically-motivated.
16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Monday he does not want his personal friendship with U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman to cloud any review of the complaint raised by South Carolina’s Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. Robertson said he believes Norman violated state laws when he pulled out his handgun in a meeting with constituents last week.
While no video is known to exist of the incident Norman has said he took out the weapon to make a point about its safety in the hands of a non-criminal. He disputes that he violated the law, saying the section in question requires that his intent be to intimidate or threaten the audience.
“My intent was to show that this gun is an inanimate object that can’t jump up off the table and shoot,” he told Rock Hill radio station WRHI. “It wasn’t to intimidate. It wasn’t to do anything other than just to show it.”
Robertson sent a letter to State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keels on Monday, seeking an investigation. Normally the local solicitor’s office would handle the investigation, but Brackett’s recusal leaves it up to the state Attorney General’s Office. A spokesman for Attorney General Alan Wilson said the office had not made a decision by Monday evening since it had just received the request.
The Democratic Party chairman insists Norman should be prosecuted and claimed failure to do so would indicate a “culture of corruption” among the state’s Republican leaders (Wilson is also a Republican). “You can’t be a congressman and write laws and expect everybody else to follow them but yourself,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Robertson also said he believes Norman’s actions would meet the threshold for intimidation. “There was no reason to pull out your gun… I deal with all types of people on a regular basis that want to voice their opinions and concerns, and not I’m not so much of a coward that I have to put a gun on my desk that I disagree with something someone says to me.”
Norman maintained that he would continue a gun for his personal safety and criticized news outlets and political opponents he said were creating “hysteria” about the incident. “The (Rock Hill) Herald (newspaper) has hit a new low and I’m done,” he told WRHI. “For them to quote people who weren’t there… (portraying) me as waving the gun and acting like some madman is the low of the low.”
While Norman’s Democratic opponent in this year’s race Archie Parnell has criticized Norman’s actions as an “irresponsible stunt,” he did not echo Robertson’s calls for a SLED investigation.