COLUMBIA — The only South Carolina lawmaker sentenced to prison in the Statehouse corruption probe will be able to stay free while appealing his conviction.
Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen set bail at $250,000 for former House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being convicted last month of perjury and two counts of misconduct in office.
The order came a day before he was scheduled to report to prison Friday.
The Columbia Republican could have received a sentence of up to 21 years for secretly profiting from the influential Richard Quinn & Associates consulting firm that pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying earlier this year and then lying about it to a grand jury.
In her order, Mullen said she considered the nature of the charges, Harrison's chances of fleeing and his health in allowing him to stay free during his appeals.
Harrison, a former member of The Citadel's Board of Visitors, was hospitalized briefly during his trial after suffering a mini stroke. He was granted extra time to report to prison after his conviction, in part, because of his health issues.
Harrison's attorney, Reggie Lloyd, said the former legislator was happy to stay out of prison while appealing his conviction.
Special prosecutor David Pascoe declined comment Thursday. In his response to the bail request, Pascoe said he did not see any grounds where Harrison would be able to overturn his convictions, and he already was given a month to address his health problems before having to report to prison.
Harrison earned nearly $1 million while working for the Quinn firm over more than a decade while he was in office. He said he worked on campaigns but the investigation found Harrison received cuts of retainers paid to the firm by corporate clients that he did not report on financial disclosure reports.
Harrison's employment with the Quinn firm ended when he left office in 2012 to become head of the Statehouse office that helps write legislation for lawmakers.
Harrison is the fifth legislator convicted in the five-year probe, though other four lawmakers entered guilty pleas and were not sentenced to prison. Harrison is the only lawmaker to take his case to a jury so far.
Former Rep. Tracy Edge awaits a trial on misconduct and perjury charges. No date for hearings have been set for the North Myrtle Beach Republican, who like Harrison, worked for Richard Quinn & Associates while in office.
The Quinn consulting firm was South Carolina's most powerful around the Statehouse with a stable of top political clients, including Gov. Henry McMaster and state Attorney General Alan Wilson, and large business clients, including AT&T and SCANA.
All the lawmakers convicted in the probe were Quinn clients, including former House Speaker Bobby Harrell and former House Majority Leader Jim Merrill, both of Charleston, who each resigned as part of their guilty pleas.
Former Sen. John Courson of Columbia and Rep. Rick Quinn, Richard Quinn's son from Lexington, also resigned after guilty pleas in the probe.
All six lawmakers charged in the probe are Republicans, which has been a source of criticism since Pascoe, the 1st Circuit solicitor from Orangeburg, is a Democrat.