Judge Carmen Mullen

Judge Carmen Mullen speaks with special prosecutor David Pascoe during a hearing Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Beaufort in which Pascoe asked the judge to recuse herself from the public corruption case against former state Rep. Rick Quinn. Andrew Knapp/Staff

COLUMBIA — A judge criticized the Statehouse corruption probe prosecutor for saying she was unfair while denying his request to reconsider a sentence that allowed former state Rep. Rick Quinn to avoid prison on a government misconduct charge.

Judge Carmen Mullen wrote in an order released Wednesday that 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe's comments during a heated hearing a week ago in Beaufort "impugning the character both of the court and defense counsel casts a pall on the judicial process," especially since he was trying to overturn a plea agreement that he arranged.

Mullen refused to recuse herself from the case after Pascoe, upset at what he considered a light sentence of probation and community service for Quinn, accused the judge of meeting privately with Quinn's attorneys without his knowledge. The prosecutor agreed to the closed-door meetings, Mullen wrote.

Pascoe also complained the judge told him to sit down during a sentencing hearing last month when he wanted to issue objections after Quinn did not receive up to one year in prison as he requested. Mullen wrote, in shooting down Pascoe's arguments, the sentencing hearing "was not another opportunity for the parties to re-argue their case or pander to the media."

During a December plea hearing, Pascoe showed a lengthy slide presentation featuring allegations that Quinn used the office he held for two decades to benefit his family's political consulting businesses. Quinn had been indicted for failing to report more than $4 million received from companies and state agencies that lobby the General Assembly.

Pascoe thought the accusations should be weighed in sentencing even though the related charges had been dropped as part of the plea deal.

Quinn denied charges of misusing his office, but the Lexington Republican admitted guilt to a single misdemeanor misconduct charge for failing to report on his financial disclosure reports that he signed a mortgage on a building leased to the University of South Carolina. Quinn said he agreed to a plea that included his resignation to spare his 73-year-old father, longtime political kingmaker Richard Quinn, from having to wait years for his own trial on conspiracy and illegal charges. The charges against his father were dropped.

In refusing to resentence Quinn, Mullen wrote that she was under no obligation to consider additional allegations of wrongdoing against Quinn. She called the accusations from Pascoe "inferences and conclusions that this court is not compelled to accept as established facts." Mullen said her sentence was based on evidence she found "reliable and relevant."

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Otherwise, she repeated in her order what she told Pascoe in court: He should have tried Quinn on additional charges, including an indictment on felony criminal conspiracy.

Pascoe said Wednesday night, "I respectfully disagree with the court." He had no other comment including whether he planned to file an appeal.

In the Statehouse probe, Pascoe has won guilty pleas from three state legislators, all of whom have resigned. He has charges pending against three more current and former lawmakers. Suspended Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, is scheduled to go to trial on March 19 for pocketing more than $130,000 in campaign cash funneled through Richard Quinn's consulting firm.

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