Palmetto Sunrise: Next steps for Harrell case

Attorney General Alan Wilson has stepped aside and handed off the ethics-related investigation into House Speaker Bobby Harrell to a local prosecutor, as the Post and Courier reported Aug. 16. Harrell also has said the state grand jury investigating his conduct has been shut down.

But neither Wilson, nor the prosecutor, David Pascoe, are speaking about the issue.

The AP's Seanna Adcox lays out some of the potential avenues for Pascoe, although given the silence around the issue, it may simply be hard to know.

By law, a state grand jury sits for 12 months. If its work hasn't concluded in that time, the attorney general can seek up to two, six-month extensions. Whether Wilson chose not to ask, or whether he did and a judge turned him down, is publicly unknown. State law also allows the presiding judge to discharge a state grand jury prior to its term ending, either at the attorney general's request or on his own.

If Pascoe chooses to impanel another state grand jury, the process must start all over. Both State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel and a judge would have to agree to it.

A state grand jury indictment requires at least 12 people on the 18-member panel to find that probable cause exists.

"Generally, it's pretty easy to secure a grand jury indictment," said Miller, citing the phrase, popularized by a Tom Wolfe novel, that it's possible to "indict a ham sandwich." "That a grand jury convened and nothing came out of it is unusual."

In an Aug. 16 news release, Harrell said the grand jury's probe ended June 30, days after a hearing on Wilson's jurisdiction. The state Supreme Court ruled July 9 that Wilson had the authority to initiate an investigation into allegations that Harrell abused his power for personal benefit. That decision overturned a lower court's order that Wilson halt his investigation, saying a legislative ethics panel must first weigh in on an ethics complaint.

It's unclear when Wilson voluntarily stepped down.

Palmetto Politics Clicks

2016 contenders descend on S.C. (SC Radio)

Ervin returns to political spotlight (WCIV)

Lawyers for Texas Gov. Perry seek dismissal of case (AP)