SC Rep. Har­ri­son found guilty, gets 18 months in prison

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JOHN MONK jmonk@thes­tate.com

EX-SC REP. JIM HAR­RI­SON, R-RICH­LAND, WAS FOUND GUILTY OF MUL­TI­PLE PUB­LIC CORRUPTIONRELATED COUNTS AND SEN­TENCED TO 18 MONTHS IN PRISON.

A Rich­land County jury late Fri­day night found ex-SC Rep. Jim Har­ri­son, R-Rich­land, guilty of mul­ti­ple pub­lic cor­rup­tion-re­lated counts.

Within min­utes, state Cir­cuit Judge Car­men Mullen sen­tenced Har­ri­son, 67, to 18 months in prison. Har­ri­son is the first state law­maker to get a prison sen­tence as a re­sult of an on­go­ing state grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion run by spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor David Pas­coe. Three other law­mak­ers have pleaded guilty and got­ten pro­ba­tion.

Asked by the judge if he had any­thing to say, Har­ri­son - known as one of most cheer­ful and so­cia­ble of state law­mak­ers - de­clined com­ment.

The jury of five men and seven women found Har­ri­son not guilty on a charge of con­spir­acy. But it re­turned guilty ver­dicts on two counts of mis­con­duct and one count of per­jury, which in­cluded two in­stances of per­jury.

The mis­con­duct charges cen­tered around Har­ri­son’s se­cret and il­le­gal ac­cep­tance of some $900,000 over 13 years from the Richard Quinn & As­so­ci­ates con­sult­ing firm. An­other ele­ment of the mis­con­duct charges is that it is il­le­gal for a law­maker to use his pub­lic po­si­tion to earn money for his pri­vate gain.

Pros­e­cu­tors charged that Har­ri­son had, ba­si­cally, sold his in­flu­ence as a promi­nent law­maker and chair­man of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee to se­cretly help the Quinn firm’s cor­po­rate clients get their bills passed in the Leg­is­la­ture. Quinn’s pay­ments to Har­ri­son stopped at the end of 2012, when Har­ri­son re­tired from the Gen­eral Assem­bly.

The ver­dict came down at 10:30 pm after the jury de­lib­er­ated more than four hours. Har­ri­son had taken the stand Fri­day morn­ing and, un­der ques­tion­ing by his at­tor­ney, Reg­gie Lloyd, told the jury he is “an hon­est, hon­or­able man.” In the end, the jury didn’t buy that.

The trial was one of South Carolina’s ma­jor pub­lic tri­als in years. It ex­posed how state law­mak­ers can eas­ily hide sources of rev­enue.

Dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments Fri­day, spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Pas­coe told the jury that South Carolina’s last ma­jor leg­isla­tive pub­lic cor­rup­tion case - the FBI’s Lost Trust scan­dal in the 1990s that re­sulted in more than a dozen state law­mak­ers plead­ing guilty to ac­cept­ing bribes - was a “joke” com­pared to Har­ri­son’s case.

Har­ri­son had il­le­gally sold his in­flu­ence for $900,000 over 13 years, while Lost Trust law­mak­ers sold their votes for just sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars, Pas­coe told the jury.

Pas­coe had a fam­ily obli­ga­tion so he was not in the court­room Fri­day night when the ver­dict came down.

But he told The State in a later phone in­ter­view that the jury’s ver­dict lets peo­ple know that cor­rup­tion in the Leg­is­la­ture will not be tol­er­ated.

“This ver­dict, and Judge Mullen’s ver­dict, sends a strong mes­sage,” Pas­coe said.

Al­ready, Pas­coe said, he had got­ten calls from law­mak­ers who want to ex­plore in­tro­duc­ing new ethics leg­is­la­tion in next year’s Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion.

The case was a per­sonal tri­umph for Pas­coe. Dur­ing the last three years, State At­tor­ney Gen­eral Alan Wilson had tried to de­rail his in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pub­licly ques­tioned Pas­coe’s com­pe­tence. Wilson also as­serted that Pas­coe, whom Wilson had ap­pointed as a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, has un­law­fully usurped Wilson’s author­ity.

But the State Supreme Court told Wilson that Pas­coe had the right to

con­duct a broad in­ves­ti­ga­tion if it was re­lated to the two law­mak­ers that Wilson had orig­i­nally al­lowed Pas­coe to in­ves­ti­gate.

Pas­coe also had fought off nu­mer­ous other at­tempts by de­fense lawyers to scut­tle his state grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion into three other promi­nent state law­mak­ers - Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lex­ing­ton; Rep. Jim Mer­rill, R-Berke­ley; and State Sen. John Cour­son, RRich­land. All have pleaded guilty to mis­con­duct and re­signed their of­fices. All re­ceived pro­ba­tion.

A common thread that linked Har­ri­son with the three other leg­is­la­tors was that they all got money from Richard Quinn & As­so­ci­ates, a firm run by Richard Quinn, 73, a long­time po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant known as a king­maker in South Carolina pol­i­tics.

For decades, Quinn has run the cam­paigns of nu­mer­ous promi­nent pub­lic of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham, R-S.C.; U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Lex­ing­ton and State At­tor­ney Gen­eral Alan Wilson.

Quinn’s po­lit­i­cal em­pire, which in­cluded po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives and of­fi­cials, was so well known it was dubbed “the Quin­ndom” and “Team Quinn.” Dur­ing this week’s trial, Pas­coe re­ferred re­peat­edly to “the Quin­ndom,” and stressed how Har­ri­son was part of the money-and in­flu­ence­fu­eled net­work. And Har­ri­son, on the wit­ness stand, ad­mit­ted he was a mem­ber of “the Quin­ndom.”

What peo­ple didn’t know about “the Quin­ndom” is that Quinn’s firm had, in ad­di­tion to its po­lit­i­cal clients, a bevy of promi­nent cor­po­rate clients that paid Quinn tens of thou­sands of dol­lars ev­ery month to help them out when they had bills or in­ter­ests in the Leg­is­la­ture, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tion tes­ti­mony.

Quinn’s clients in­cluded the Univer­sity of South Carolina, AT&T, Pal­metto Health hos­pi­tals, SCANA elec­tric util­ity, Unisys tech­nol­ogy and the S.C. trial lawyers’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

Last De­cem­ber, threat­ened with nu­mer­ous crim­i­nal charges by Pas­coe, Richard Quinn al­lowed his firm, Richard Quinn & As­so­ci­ates, to plead guilty to il­le­gal lob­by­ing in the state Leg­is­la­ture. Pas­coe then dropped the charges and gave Quinn im­mu­nity from fur­ther pros­e­cu­tion if he tes­ti­fied be­fore the state grand jury.

Dur­ing this week’s trial, Pas­coe in­tro­duced 15 wit­nesses and nu­mer­ous ex­hibits to hammer home th­ese points:

Quinn’s firm Richard ●

Quinn & As­so­ci­ates, which had em­ployed Har­ri­son for 13 years at ap­prox­i­mately $80,000 per year, had pleaded guilty last year to il­le­gal lob­by­ing. One ba­sic charge against Har­ri­son was that it was il­le­gal for him to work for a firm that lob­bied the S.C. Gen­eral Assem­bly for cor­po­rate in­ter­ests with­out dis­clos­ing his re­la­tion­ship and com­pen­sa­tion from the firm.

Har­ri­son kept his job

● with the Quinn firm se­cret. Har­ri­son’s for­mer col­leagues in the House, in­clud­ing Reps. Mike Pitts, R-Lau­rens, and Todd Ruther­ford, R-Rich­land, tes­ti­fied for the pros­e­cu­tion, say­ing they were shocked to learn that Har­ri­son was paid about $80,000 a year by Quinn while he was in the Leg­is­la­ture. Har­ri­son “flat-out lied” about what he did for the Quinn firm, Pas­coe told the jury. “He couldn’t let peo­ple know he worked for Richard Quinn or the whole house of cards would have fallen.”

Quinn stopped pay­ing

Har­ri­son at the end of 2012, when Har­ri­son left the Leg­is­la­ture. Pas­coe ar­gued Har­ri­son was no more use to Quinn’s cor­po­rate clients when he re­tired.

Har­ri­son never ex

● plained to the jury what he did to earn his $80,000 a year salary from Quinn. And so the jury was left to won­der how Har­ri­son - who tes­ti­fied he was al­ready busy with his triple jobs of be­ing a lawyer, be­ing in the Army Re­serve and work­ing in the Leg­is­la­ture - found the time to be worth some $80,000 a year do­ing work for Quinn. Har­ri­son told the jury he worked on Quinn’s cam­paigns and was a “sound­ing board” for Quinn. But top of­fi­cials in nu­mer­ous S.C. cam­paigns Quinn ran tes­ti­fied they had no knowl­edge Har­ri­son did any po­lit­i­cal work.

Pas­coe told the jury that Har­ri­son helped Quinn to “make mil­lions” from cor­po­rate clients be­cause when­ever Har­ri­son took po­si­tions on bills, he was so re­spected that other law­mak­ers were in­flu­enced by him.

Over and over, Pas­coe

● stressed how other law­mak­ers - in­clud­ing Mer­rill and Cour­son - also took money covertly from the Quinn firm and had been con­victed of mis­con­duct. Pas­coe stressed how the Quinn firm had pleaded guilty to il­le­gal lob­by­ing. If those law­mak­ers were guilty, Pas­coe ar­gued, so was Har­ri­son.

Al­though de­fense

● at­tor­neys tried to poke a hole in Pas­coe’s case by telling the jury that Pas­coe had failed to call Richard Quinn as a wit­ness to back up the pros­e­cu­tion charge that Har­ri­son and Quinn con­spired with each other, Pas­coe poked right back, telling the jury that the de­fense too, could have called Quinn as a wit­ness. In the end, how­ever, the one charge the jury ac­quit­ted Har­ri­son on was the con­spir­acy charge.

De­fense lawyers had

● be­lit­tled Pas­coe’s case, say­ing some­one as hon­est as Har­ri­son would never sell his vote, es­pe­cially when he had a good ca­reer and “so much to lose.” But Pas­coe said Har­ri­son’s mo­ti­va­tion was “greed” - by work­ing for Quinn, Har­ri­son pock­eted hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.

Pros­e­cu­tors didn’t

“go after” Har­ri­son. “This case was an ac­ci­dent,”” Pas­coe told the jury. When the grand jury was in­ves­ti­gat­ing other law­mak­ers’ ties to the Quinn firm, it stum­bled over records show­ing the Quinn firm had paid out hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to Mer­rill, Cour­son and Har­ri­son.

Late Fri­day night, Pas­coe said he wanted to thank State Law En­force­ment Divi­sion Chief Mark Keel for al­low­ing a small team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors, headed by Maj. Richard Gre­gory, to help gather ev­i­dence on the case, over the past three years.

SLED’s ac­tive in­volve­ment was not con­sid­ered a sure thing. Keel’s boss is Gov. McMaster, who for years used Richard Quinn as his top po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant in suc­cess­ful cam­paigns for gover­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral. But McMaster, who has sev­ered ties to Quinn, gave Keel free rein to in­ves­ti­gate the case.

PHO­TOS BY TRACY GLANTZ tglantz@thes­tate.com

For­mer S.C. Rep. Jim Har­ri­son takes the wit­ness stand Fri­day dur­ing his trial on charges of mis­con­duct and per­jury.

Spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor David Pas­coe, left, and at­tor­ney Reg­gie Lloyd con­fer Fri­day prior to Jim Har­ri­son's trial on pub­lic cor­rup­tion-re­lated charges.

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