COLUMBIA - Another hearing is planned on a request to remove South Carolina's top prosecutor from the ethics case of House Speaker Bobby Harrell.
In an email to reporters on Friday, State Grand Jury Clerk Jim Parks said lawyers representing Attorney General Alan Wilson had asked for time to submit additional briefs in the matter. Attorneys for both sides will get more time, and reporters will be notified when another hearing is scheduled, Parks said.
The State Grand Jury is considering whether Harrell should be indicted. The case stems from allegations the powerful Charleston Republican used his office to boost his finances by using influence to get a permit for his pharmaceutical business and improperly appointed his brother to a judicial candidate screening committee.
The South Carolina Policy Council, a libertarian think tank, brought the allegations to Wilson, also a Republican. The prosecutor then forwarded the matter to the State Law Enforcement Division and is now in the process of presenting those findings to the State Grand Jury.
Harrell's attorneys have said Wilson should be removed from the case, saying last month in a hearing before Circuit Judge Casey Manning that the prosecutor tried to intimidate the speaker into supporting pending legislation while the state police investigation into the ethics case was ongoing.
During that hearing, Harrell's chief of staff testified about a private meeting he had with Wilson. In the prosecutor's office, Brad Wright said that Wilson mentioned SLED's ongoing inquiry and referenced the proposal that Harrell come out in favor of as an "olive branch."
Wilson has said he made no threats and only wanted the bill to be passed. In court, the prosecutor testified that he typically speaks with lawmakers about pending legislation and only met with Wright, not his boss, to avoid any appearance of impropriety, given the fact that SLED was investigating Harrell.
By law, matters are presented to the State Grand Jury in secret, but Manning said the law also requires that hearings like the one that occurred last month should be open to the public. Harrell has previously characterized the allegations against him as driven by a "personal and political vendetta" and has called on Wilson to publicly release state investigators' findings.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
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