Ex-SC leg­is­la­tor seeks to stay out of prison while he ap­peals

The State - - Local - BY JOHN MONK jmonk@thes­tate.com

For­mer S.C. Rep. Jim Har­ri­son, R-Rich­land, is ask­ing a state judge to al­low him to re­main free while he ap­peals his con­vic­tion on State House cor­rup­tion charges.

Har­ri­son was sen­tenced to 18 months in prison last month af­ter his pub­lic cor­rup­tion trial.

The Columbia Repub­li­can’s lawyers are urg­ing state Cir­cuit Court Judge Car­men Mullen, who sen­tenced Har­ri­son last month, to al­low him to de­lay re­port­ing to prison un­til af­ter his ap­peal runs its course, a process that could take years.

“The de­fen­dant is not a flight risk and is no threat to the com­mu­nity,” Har­ri­son’s lawyers, for­mer SLED di­rec­tor Reg­gie Lloyd and state Rep. Hunter Lim­baugh, wrote in a mo­tion to the judge.

Ap­peals in South Carolina, typ­i­cally, can take a year or two, or more.

Har­ri­son, 67, has a long record of pub­lic and mil­i­tary ser­vice, no pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record and “doc­u­mented health prob­lems,” his lawyers wrote. Dur­ing his five-day trial, Har­ri­son suf­fered what he called a min­istroke.

“We will be fil­ing a re­sponse very soon,” spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor David Pas­coe said Thurs­day, de­clin­ing fur­ther com­ment.

It is rare for a de­fen­dant to be al­lowed to stay out of prison while ap­peal­ing their con­vic­tion, said Field­ing Pringle, chief pub­lic de­fender for Rich­land and Ker­shaw coun­ties.

“But each case is dif­fer­ent, and a judge’s de­ci­sion will be based on the cir­cum­stances of that case,” said Pringle, who has been a de­fense at­tor­ney for 20 years.

In their mo­tion to de­lay Har­ri­son’s im­pris­on­ment, his lawyers wrote the case against the for­mer leg­is­la­tor “in­volved com­plex ques­tions of le­gal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the State Ethics Act, ju­ris­dic­tion of the state grand jury and other le­gal is­sues.”

Har­ri­son, who rep­re­sented parts of Columbia and Rich­land County, served more than 20 years in the S.C. House. For 18 years of that time, the at­tor­ney was chair­man of the pow­er­ful House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Ev­i­dence dur­ing his trial showed Har­ri­son had been paid se­cretly more than $900,000 by the Richard Quinn po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing firm to in­flu­ence leg­is­la­tion fa­vored by that firm’s clients. The pay­ments were il­le­gal, the pros­e­cu­tion con­tended, be­cause the Quinn firm il­le­gally was lob­by­ing the Leg­is­la­ture for var­i­ous cor­po­rate clients.

A Rich­land County jury con­victed Har­ri­son Oct. 26 of of­fi­cial mis­con­duct and per­jury.

In his ap­peal, Har­ri­son ar­gues there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to con­vict him and the pros­e­cu­tion lacked ju­ris­dic­tion to try him.

Jim Har­ri­son

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