A former legislator was sentenced to 18 months in prison after a jury found him guilty of perjury and misconduct charges.
Former State Rep. Jim Harrison — who had been working as South Carolina’s code commissioner before his indictment last year — became the first politician found guilty by a jury from a four-year corruption probe at the Statehouse. Four others had previously avoided prison as part of guilty pleas.
Prosecutors led by First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe argued the political veteran who represented eastern Columbia for 23 years used his job with a political consulting group Richard Quinn & Associates to get paid by companies which then benefitted from legislation he helped pass or kill in the House.
The perjury charge stems from what he told the grand jury that eventually indicted him. According to the indictment, Harrison told the panel last year he was paid by RQ&A for his work on other political campaigns. But it noted Harrison gave a much different description 18 years earlier, when he described himself as the firm’s “Chief Operating Officer” who “manages the day-to-day operations.”
Harrison’s defense attorneys argued that prosecutors overstated the former lawmaker’s role with the consulting firm. They argued Harrison had a good reputation among legislators from both parties and that prosecutors could show no evidence Harrison gave special treatment to RQ&A’s clients. Quinn’s firm paid a fine earlier this year for failing to register as aa lobbyist, although charges were ultimately dropped against the consultant himself under the plea deal.
The jury convicted Harrison after deliberating for several hours Friday night. Harrison’s trial had begun five days earlier.
Harrison served in the House from 1989 until he retired to lead the Legislative Council — a body which actually writes the legislation and laws proposed in the House and Senate — in 2012. He was suspended from the council after his indictment last year.
He faced up to 21 years in prison, but Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen sentenced him to 18 months.