Second Court Hearing in Harrell Ethics Case Set for Friday

May 1, 2014

Investigative Reports

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Bobby HarrellA second hearing in the state grand jury case involving House Speaker Bobby Harrell has been scheduled for Friday before Circuit Judge Casey Manning, according to an email notification this afternoon from James Parks, the state grand jury clerk.

As The Nerve previously reported, Manning is considering whether to transfer Harrell’s case from the state grand jury, which can issue criminal indictments in public corruption cases, to the state House Ethics Committee, which can issue only civil sanctions for ethics violations by House members.

The Nerve reported on Monday that that under a longstanding loophole in state ethics laws, the House Ethics Committee can’t consider ethics violations older than four years. That would mean that many of the allegations contained in a public corruption complaint filed last year by the South Carolina Policy Council – The Nerve’s parent organization – could not be considered by the committee.

In contrast, S.C. criminal laws generally have no statute of limitations.

The Policy Council in February 2013 filed a complaint against Harrell with S.C Attorney General Alan Wilson, who referred it to the State Law Enforcement Division. After a 10-month investigation, SLED submitted its report to Wilson, who announced in January that the case had been referred to the state grand jury for further investigation.

In a letter to Wilson that accompanied the complaint, Ashley Landess, the Policy Council president, wrote that the “apparent ethics violations, if proven, could be plausibly seen as a pattern of public corruption that would be out of the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee to investigate.”

Harrell, R-Charleston, who was elected to the House in 1992 and became the House speaker in 2005, has denied doing anything wrong, and he has not been charged with any crimes.

In testimony during Harrell’s initial hearing on March 21, Wilson denied allegations that he had threatened Brad Wright, Harrell’s chief of staff, during a closed-door meeting last year in the Attorney General’s Office. Harrell did not testify at that hearing.

It is not known if Harrell will take the stand at Friday’s hearing. Manning has not released any court documents related to the initial hearing or the upcoming hearing, despite repeated requests by The Nerve.

Friday’s hearing is set for 11 a.m. in Courtroom 2-B in the Richland County Courthouse at 1701 Main St. in downtown Columbia. The hearing is open to the public.

The Nerve plans to Tweet updates during the hearing.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.