More than a year after dodging criminal charges in the sweeping S.C. State Hhouse corruption probe, Richard Quinn, one of the South’s top political kingmakers, was again indicted Thursday on 11 counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.
The indictments accuse Quinn of lying during two appearances before the State Grand Jury a year ago in cases against former state lawmakers Jim Harrison, John Courson and Rick Quinn, his son. Quinn also is accused of lying about his work for S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Courson and Rick Quinn are among four lawmakers to resign from office after guilty pleas in the probe. Harrison was sentenced to 18 months in prison on perjury and misconduct in office charges in October. Harrison is the only person to receive a prison sentence in the investigation. Wilson, who won a third term as the state’s top prosecutor last year, has not been charged.
Quinn, 74, faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all the perjury charges and up to 10 years on the obstruction charge, which was handed down based on allegations that his “incomplete and evasive” testimony thwarted the investigation, according to the indictment.
“Quinn repeatedly claimed to suffer from memory problems and health issues that hindered his memory, however, witnesses’ testimony before the grand jury and evidence gathered, contradicts his claim,” the indictment says.
A bond hearing has not been scheduled, according to a news release from 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, who is overseeing the probe that dates back to 2013.
Previous corruption charges against Quinn, including illegal lobbying and conspiracy, were dropped in 2017 as part of a guilty plea deal with Rick Quinn. Rick Quinn, a former House majority leader, agreed to resign from the Legislature after pleading guilty to misconduct in office.
At the time, Richard Quinn’s political consulting firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, agreed to pay fines and restitution totaling $5,500 for illegal lobbying.
As part of his deal, Richard Quinn, who represented some of South Carolina’s most influential politicians, businesses and state agencies, agreed to testify before a state grand jury.
That testimony landed Quinn in legal trouble again.
Quinn learned about the indictments Thursday from a Post and Courier reporter. He said he was not expecting the new allegations from Pascoe.
“I’m surprised,” Quinn answered, adding that he needed to gather more information about the indictments before commenting further.
His attorney Debbie Barbier said the perjury charges are a rehash of earlier allegations against Quinn that were dropped: “This is a different shade of lipstick on the same pig.”
Quinn’s clients have included S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the late U.S. Sens. Strom Thurmond and John McCain, and the late President Ronald Reagan. RQ&A also represented Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, AT&T, University of South Carolina and the State Ports Authority.
The indictments accuse Quinn of lying while testifying in front of the State Grand Jury in Columbia in April and May 2018.
The newest allegations came from Quinn’s ties to Alan Wilson, whose father, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, also is a political consulting client of RQ&A.
RQ&A paid two employees in the attorney general’s office a monthly stipend of $500 each.
“Quinn used this close relationship with Attorney General Wilson to attract prospective corporate clients,” the indictment said. Wilson would hand off the State House probe to Pascoe in July 2014 after Rick Quinn’s name appeared in a State Law Enforcement Division investigative report into alleged wrongdoing among lawmakers.
Three months later, Richard Quinn sent a draft news release on the guilty plea by House Speaker Bobby Harrell to one of Wilson’s deputies. Then he helped draft a letter that Wilson sent to Pascoe suggesting that the attorney general take back control of the probe.
Quinn told grand jurors he was helping Wilson because the attorney general did not have a press secretary at the time. “I was his de facto press secretary,” Quinn said.
Wilson, however, told the grand jury he had a press secretary on his staff at the time.
Quinn’s drafting the letter trying to limit Pascoe’s authority was “motivated by Quinn’s desire to protect his son Rick Quinn from being investigated and/or prosecuted by Solicitor Pascoe,” the indictment says. Pascoe would win a court fight to keep control of the probe.
Wilson’s office declined comment.
The other perjury allegations against Quinn came from cases involving State House lawmakers.
Harrison worked for RQ&A while he was in the State House, including as chairman of the powerful House judiciary committee.
Quinn said Harrison worked on campaigns, including having a “major role” in McCain’s presidential runs in 2000 and 2008, along with doing some legal work, according to the indictment. But other grand jury witnesses said Harrison did not perform legal or campaign work. Instead, he backed bills favoring Quinn clients, the indictment said.
Courson, a Columbia Republican who led the Senate education committee, was accused of pocketing $160,000 in campaign cash funneled over six years through RQ&A, his campaign consultant. The pass-through was suggested by Quinn, according to the indictment.
Courson said the money covered personal payments made for campaign expenses over his three decades in office. He did not want to take the money directly to “avoid the political ramifications of reporting the (campaign) reimbursements,” according to the indictment.
Courson wrote checks to RQ&A from his campaign account and received checks back, usually on the same day, the indictment said. Courson made sure most of the payments, sent without invoices or receipts, were below the $10,000 threshold that would trigger financial reporting by banks, court records say.
In his final payment, Courson received $32,000 from a $35,116 campaign check sent to RQ&A that said “victory bonus + mailings; consulting fee,” the indictment said. The transaction actually covered payment for cemetery plots that Quinn purchased from Courson using campaign cash, Quinn’s daughter, Rebecca Mustian, told the grand jury. She handled the books at her father’s firm.
According to the indictment, Quinn contradicted his daughter in his own testimony, saying allegations that his firm pocketed some of the money from Courson’s Senate account were not accurate “at least from our perspective.”
Quinn also said he had did not know about the payments to Courson at first and did not know why Courson was not reimbursing himself directly. “I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it,” Quinn told the grand jury.
Asked whether he used Courson campaign cash to pay for cemetery plots, Quinn said, “You know, that’s money I had earned. I used my earnings to pay, to buy the plot but it wasn’t specifically John’s payment.”
Court documents suggest the mingling of businesses owned by Richard and Rick Quinn that they have long maintained were separate.
While he was in office, Rick Quinn received pay from his own firm Mail Marketing Strategies, Richard Quinn testified. But the investigation found RQ&A transferred money to Mail Marketing to cover payroll shortfalls, the indictment said.
The businesses also shared a bulk postage mailing permit. And Rick Quinn discussed happenings at the State House with his father’s clients and helped in RQ&A’s political consulting work, the indictment said.
Richard Quinn added that his son recused himself from votes involving his firm’s work, even though the investigation found Rick Quinn cast votes on legislation affecting RQ&A clients.
The indictment said Richard Quinn was asked about an email in which he cautioned against introducing Rick Quinn as a RQ&A employee: “We didn’t want him to be accused of doing improper work for my corporate clients.”