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Request to reconsider probation for Rick Quinn in S.C. corruption probe will be heard Wednesday

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Political consultant Richard Quinn hugs his son, former state Rep. Rick Quinn, in court in Beaufort after Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen sentenced the former lawmaker to probation. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

The judge who sentenced former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn to probation for ethical misconduct has agreed to hear arguments Wednesday on whether she should reconsider the punishment.

Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen has scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Wednesday in Beaufort, according to Jim Parks, clerk of court for the State Grand Jury.

David Pascoe, the special prosecutor in the ongoing Statehouse corruption probe, filed a motion Feb. 16 criticizing Mullen’s handling of the matter and asked her to reconsider the sentence of two years of probation and 500 hours of community service she handed Quinn earlier this month.

Pascoe had asked the judge to sentence Quinn to the maximum sentence of one year behind bars. 

In his motion, Pascoe said he would not have agreed to a guilty plea if he knew the judge would not weigh other allegations in sentencing Quinn on the misdemeanor charge. He wrote that Mullen had backed the stance of Quinn's lawyers over legal precedent, adding that his “faith in the Court's impartiality has been undermined."

Quinn, a Lexington Republican, resigned ahead of his December guilty plea in a deal that allowed him to sidestep the potential for a decade in prison if he had been convicted of all the charges against him. He pleaded guilty to a single count of misconduct in office, acknowledging only that he had an omission in his 2016 economic interest filing.

Pascoe contends Quinn participated in a much broader array of misconduct and profited handsomely by using his public office to advance the agendas of his family's clients. The Quinns have denied those allegations. 

In his court filing, Pascoe said Mullen showed little interest early in listening to any additional allegations against Quinn, telling him in chambers to "go light on the facts so the plea won't blow up" before a December hearing in Columbia. 

During the sentencing hearing, Mullen told Pascoe that considering any additional accusations in sentencing would violate Rick Quinn's constitutional rights and that the prosecutor should have taken the case to trial if he wanted all of the charges considered against the former lawmaker.

In a terse exchange, Mullen refused to hear Pascoe's objections after announcing her sentence and told him to sit down.

Pascoe said in his filing he was dismayed that Mullen would blame him for a lighter sentence and that Quinn had waived his constitutional rights of "presumed innocent until proven guilty" by accepting the plea, which is a conviction. Pascoe went on to slam Mullen, saying in the court document her "sentencing the manner in which the guilty plea was conducted constitute an abuse of discretion based on error of law."

He has asked Mullen to consider dumping the guilty pleas for both Quinn and his father's political and marketing consulting firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, which agreed to pay $5,500 to settle an illegal lobbying charge. The prosecutor dropped several more severe charges, including criminal conspiracy, against the Quinns to reach the plea deal.

Richard Quinn, a longtime political kingmaker, was cleared of all wrongdoing but must testify before the state grand jury.

Reach Glenn Smith at 843-937-5556. Follow him on Twitter @glennsmith5.

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