COLUMBIA — A state grand jury report on the Statehouse corruption probe should be released, a judge ruled Wednesday, clearing the way for more details from the long-running investigation to become public.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman gave attorneys representing people mentioned in the report until Friday at 10 a.m. to propose redactions of specific information they believe should be concealed.
Defense attorneys representing various lawmakers embroiled in the investigation expressed concerns that the report could tar the reputation of certain people and entities, some of whom were not indicted for their actions.
Reggie Lloyd, an attorney representing former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison, argued it would be "fundamentally unfair" to release a report that mentions individuals in "unflattering ways" without including their version of events.
Harrison is set to go on trial Oct. 22 on misconduct, conspiracy and perjury charges.
Special prosecutor David Pascoe pointed to the law establishing state grand juries, which gives them authority to create reports based on all of the evidence they reviewed. He argued the attorneys were seeking to complicate a simple issue.
"Justice was done," Pascoe said as he left the courtroom. "I believe the grand jury will be very pleased with today's ruling because now the people get to read their report."
Pascoe initially asked for the report to be sealed while the prosecutors worked though several matters with various corporations mentioned in its pages. Those matters have since been resolved, he said, and there is no longer a need to keep the document from the public’s eyes.
The report is said to offer details from the investigation of several lawmakers, as well as lessons and suggested remedies to state law to prevent similar issues from arising in the future.
The report, approved at the end of the State Grand Jury’s two-year term in June, comes after the probe led to guilty pleas and resignations of four lawmakers for pocketing campaign money and using their offices to help companies and state agencies that paid them or their employers.
The investigation also crippled the Columbia firm run by former state Rep. Rick Quinn’s father, Richard Quinn, who has long been one of the South’s most influential consultants. His clients included powerful businesses, state agencies and politicians.
Harrison, a Columbia Republican, and former House lawmaker Tracy Edge, a Republican from Myrtle Beach, still have charges pending in their corruption probe cases.
Jay Bender, an attorney representing The State newspaper of Columbia, called the ruling "a victory for the people of South Carolina and their government." He argued it is important for the public to see the grand jury's conclusions about how public corruption could be curbed in the future.
"We need to have confidence in our institutions, and if it means we have to overhaul the ethical practices of the General Assembly, by all means let's get the ethical practices overhauled," Bender said.