The next duel over House Speaker Bobby Harrell's state grand jury investigation could - and should - play out in public, a media rights attorney says.
S.C. Press Association lawyer Jay Bender says the emerging fight between Harrell's attorneys and Attorney General Alan Wilson should be seen in open court.
"For that hearing to be held in secret would certainly diminish any credible outcome the case has one way or the other," he said.
The (Columbia) State newspaper reported Thursday that Harrell's legal team wants a circuit judge to remove Wilson as the prosecutor in the state grand jury probe of Harrell, R-Charleston.
The report quoted sources close to law enforcement who are familiar with the developments.
Bender said the hearing between the two sides should be held in open court. While the request may have stemmed from a grand jury probe, it is not connected to the actual grand jury investigation, meaning it is not part of that secrecy, Bender said.
Harrell's legal team reportedly is pursuing a closed-door hearing with Judge Robert Hood of Columbia regarding Wilson, the sources said.
Charleston attorney Bart Daniel, who represents Harrell, declined comment Thursday. A spokesman for Wilson said "our office has no further comment at this time."
In January, Wilson's office announced that the probe into Harrell's conduct has been referred to a state grand jury, where it will be evaluated behind closed doors for possible wrongdoing.
Harrell said earlier he was shocked that the case was directed to a grand jury, saying he "cooperated fully and voluntarily" with the state investigation up to that point.
The probe into Harrell's conduct dates back almost a year, including when S.C. Policy Council President Ashley Landess filed a complaint raising the issue of whether Harrell used his campaign account and legislative office for personal gain.
Landess alleged, among other things, that Harrell may have used his office to benefit a family business and used campaign funds for personal use.
Harrell has called the complaint "a baseless attack that is driven by personal and political vendetta."
Other allegations stemmed from a 2012 Post and Courier report about Harrell's campaign account.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.
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