Republican state Sen. John Courson says the corruption charges against him should be tossed out.
In a lengthy answer to the allegations he faces as part of the ongoing Statehouse probe, the Columbia Republican said Thursday that an investigation into South Carolina's legal code says misconduct in office is not an indictable offense under the state's common law.
Additionally, Courson said in the filing with the state grand jury, the charges are unconstitutionally vague and violate his due process rights, which would include how he was automatically suspended from office following his indictment.
"A review of South Carolina jurisprudence demonstrates there is no common law offense of misconduct in office. For that reason, Courson cannot be indicted or prosecuted for such an offense," wrote his attorney, former assistant U.S. attorney Rose Mary Parham of Florence.
In a separate statement, Parham said the penalties Courson potentially faces are wrong, as well.
"We believe that whether the common law crime exists or not, the punishment for any crime of misconduct cannot exceed that which is defined by statute, which is a fine of up to $1,000 and not more than one year in jail," she wrote.
"This is significant because the common law charge with the supposed penalty of up to 10 years in jail is what prevents Sen. Courson from continuing to serve his constituents," she added.
Courson was indicted March 16 on charges of converting campaign funds for personal use and two counts of misconduct in office. He has maintained his innocence but was automatically suspended from the Senate on March 17, as is required by state law pending the outcome of the case.
The allegations say Courson pocketed nearly $133,000 from his campaign war chest by funneling money through a powerful political consultant, Richard Quinn and Associates, which then wrote checks back to the lawmaker for his personal use, said 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, the prosecutor in charge of the probe.
The filing is part of a bevy of legal arguments expected to play out in the on-going corruption probe. Parham said Courson is seeking a jury trial.
“I have no comment on the merits of Mr. Courson’s motion,” Pascoe told The Post and Courier. “The defense has asked for a speedy trial, which I welcome, and I look forward to setting a trial date as soon as possible we can resolve these issues.”
Courson is the fourth lawmaker charged in the on-going Statehouse corruption case, one of whom, former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, pleaded guilty and resigned from the Legislature. Also charged are Reps. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, and Jim Merrill, R-Charleston.