COLUMBIA — The special prosecutor in the Statehouse corruption probe will stay on the job after a South Carolina judge rejected claims he'd acted inappropriately in pursuing the case.
Circuit Judge Knox McMahon ruled Friday that 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe did not engage in misconduct during or after the search warrant raid of a consulting firm in the months leading up to the criminal indictment of state Rep. Rick Quinn.
"I do not see where the integrity of the judicial system has been compromised," McMahon said before denying all of Quinn's motions.
"The 1st Circuit Solicitor’s Office, as the acting attorney general, will continue investigation of this case," McMahon ruled.
McMahon called the motions brought by Quinn's attorneys to remove Pascoe a case of "Monday-morning quarterbacking."
Quinn's legal team had argued the solicitor and agents from the State Law Enforcement Division should have handled the search differently.
The judge rejected the idea.
"I don’t know how you can pre-plan for an officer who has a duty to execute a search warrant to not search," McMahon said, referencing the potential confiscation of attorney-client privileged materials.
After the ruling in his favor, Pascoe, an elected Democrat, only would say, "I've got a lot of work to do."
This likely is the last time McMahon will rule in this case. He announced his retirement last week. His last day is expected to be June 30 while the year-long ongoing probe of Statehouse corruption has shown no signs of slowing down.
Quinn's attorneys, as well as attorneys for his father, Richard Quinn, alleged SLED investigators did not properly handle and seize documents and computers taken from the Richard Quinn & Associates office, saying the agents failed to protect paperwork that could not be reviewed in the case on grounds they were covered under attorney-client privilege.
The Quinns' lawyers also questioned if the seized documents were correctly secured so that prosecutors could not look at them until McMahon handed down Friday's decision.
After the hearing, Quinn continued to stress his innocence on the ethics-related charges against him.
"This is just the first step in a long process for me to win my name back and to prove that I have been an honorable representative to my constituents," he said.
Rick Quinn, who turned 52 on Thursday, has been charged with two counts of misconduct in office for, among other things, accusations that he failed to report $4.5 million from some of South Carolina’s largest corporations and state agencies that hired his father’s firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, since 2010.
He also is accused of lobbying other lawmakers on behalf of his father's clients. Rick Quinn is free on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond.
Richard Quinn — whose clients as one of the South's leading political consultants have included Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham — has not been charged in the probe that has so far pulled in four GOP lawmakers.
In relation to the seized documents, Pascoe told the judge last month that he has not examined the files taken from the Richard Quinn & Associates office in March and that he is having a fellow solicitor, Kevin Brackett from the 16th Circuit, review them to remove any privileged documents.
But with McMahon's decision now finalized, Pascoe now can begin to review appropriate documents in the case.
Pascoe was named to lead the probe after Attorney General Alan Wilson recused himself from overseeing the Statehouse investigation in 2014 because of unspecified conflicts of interest. The probe has netted the conviction of former House Speak Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston. Three Republican legislators remain suspended after their indictments in the last several months — Quinn, Rep. Jim Merrill of Charleston, and Sen. John Courson of Columbia.