South Carolina Supreme Court Schedules Arguments in Pascoe Case

The South Carolina Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Thursday, June 11, 2020, in connection with the latest upheaval in the ProbeGate corruption investigation in the state government. As we reported exclusively at the end of last month, the tables appear to have changed in this investigation – with the prosecutor who led the investigation now under the microscope for deals he made with corporate defendants.

Agreements that have benefited your office financially …

The development is the last turn on a long and winding road that takes us to … justice?

Hum no … not in south carolina. At least not until the laws are changed.

But the court may be close to pulling the curtain on the machinations of a criminal investigation that – while effective in getting corrupt politicians out of office – has failed in its broader mission to hold them (and the institutions that financed them) truly accountable.

Earlier this month, judges negotiated with prosecutor ProbeGate – SC’s first circuit attorney David Pascoe – a strong rebuke in relation to this case, which is technically still in progress.

After rejecting Pascoe’s attempt to overturn an indulgent sentence received by one of the defendants in this case, the judges indicated that they would soon be dealing with controversial “corporate integrity agreements” negotiated by the lawyer with several corporate defendants.

One justice in particular – John Few – criticized these agreements in a well-formulated competing opinion.

“Pascoe uses the term ‘corporate integrity agreement’ to mean the payment of money to the Pascoe First Circuit Lawyer Office by entities he is investigating in exchange for a promise by Pascoe not to sue the entity, so Pascoe then has funds to sue entities or people who were not asked to pay or refused to pay, ”wrote Few.

No short words here …

Some criticisms aside, the judges refused to address the legality of corporate integrity agreements in relation to their decision earlier this month … but they announced today that they will hear arguments related to them Next month.

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(Via: FITSNews)

For debate? If Pascoe (above) had the authority to enter into these controversial deals in the first place … and whether the proceeds of those deals should have been sent to the general state fund instead of directly to his cabinet coffers.

ProbeGate – which was discovered exclusively by this media in the fall of 2014 – was a comprehensive investigation into the claims to pay to play at SC State House. Produced guilty pleas or convictions of five former legislative leaders: Former SC president Bobby Harrell, former president of Senado SC John Courson, former majority leader in the Chamber of SC Jimmy Merrill, former chairman of the state code judiciary / commissioner Jim Harrison and former SC majority leader Rick Quinn.

With the exception of Harrell – the original target of the investigation – all of the lawmakers denounced in connection with the investigation were close to the “republican” political strategist Richard Quinn, a godfather of the Republican Party who had unparalleled power in the state of Palmetto at the time.

Originally accused of conspiracy for his role in the “pay to play” scheme, old Quinn has since been accused of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to jurors during the course of the investigation.

The essence of the scandal?

“Corporate entities hired Richard Quinn to gain access and influence over public officials and, by failing to report on Quinn’s services, influenced the outcome of legislative issues without responsibility or disclosure to the public,” the grand judges who investigated Quinn and his colleagues comparsas concluded in a report released in October 2018.

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(Via: FITSNews)

However, although the grand jury determined that there was a probable cause for the criminal prosecution of these corporate defendants, they were able to avoid prosecution thanks to the “integrity” agreements mentioned above.

These agreements consisted of more than $ 350,000 in monetary fines paid by corporate defendants … directly to Pascoe’s office.

As longtime readers will remember, no media has been more aggressive in defending Pascoe’s conduct in the ProbeGate investigation than we are. We supported him every step of the way, believing that those he craved desperately needed to be exposed for his selfish behavior.

That underlying belief has not changed …

However, these corporate integrity agreements have always bothered us. Specifically, Pascoe “left a lot of flesh on the bone, as far as we are concerned – especially with regard to corporate customers involved in this pay-to-play scandal,” we noted in December 2018.

More recently, we felt that “allowing corporate entities to basically buy their way out of facing criminal charges is not ‘integrity’; in fact, some would argue that it is no better than the type of behavior Pascoe was prosecuting in the first place.”

Even if there was nothing sinister at the heart of these agreements, the fact is that taking money from rich interests – and in one case, from taxpayer-financed interest – in exchange for not prosecuting them for criminal behavior seems absolutely terrible.

In addition, the scandal surrounding these payments called into question all the good work Pascoe did against political defendants in this investigation – while undermining the pending charges against Richard Quinn, the alleged leader of the entire operation.

While the controversy continues, Pascoe is receiving support from the state senator Dick Harpootlian, who praised the prosecutor for his actions and attributed the criticisms he received from Few to “political headwinds that blow when the powerful are called to account.”

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(Via: Columbia SC Photographer Travis Bell)

“I commend attorney Pascoe for taking on this public corruption investigation,” Harpootlian (above) wrote in a column sent to The (Charleston, SC) Post and Courier. “He exposed systemic corruption at SC State House and, through his work, prevented others from abusing public trust.”

“It was Pascoe’s willingness to stand up and expose the excesses and corruption at the State House that makes it easier for all of us now to do our job without the undue influence of special interests,” added Harpootlian.

Harpootlian has emerged in the past year and a half as one of the strongest voices in the state government against secret spending and corrupt crony capitalism – winning applause from us. Still, it is important to note that he inherited his position largely thanks to Pascoe’s investigation.

Not only did ProbeGate take Courson – the “republican” who occupied the 20th Senate district of SC (.pdf) – but the moment associated with the judicial agreement allowed the special election for this seat to be held on the same date of 2018 general election, which benefited Harpootlian.

We are not suggesting that nothing untoward has happened, but it is certainly interesting to see the Harpootlian weighing so publicly (and decisively) on Pascoe’s behalf.

Stay tuned … this news medium expects to watch oral arguments next month and provide our readers with an update on the progress of the investigation at that time.




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Flag: Travis Bell, Columbia SC photographers