Suspended South Carolina Representative Jim Merrill pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in office Friday morning after entering into a plea agreement with the prosecution. Judge Robert E. Hood sentenced Merrill to one year of probation.
In exchange for Merrill's resignation from the legislature and his cooperation in a larger investigation around lawmaker misconduct, Merrill was allowed to plead to one count of misconduct. Providing Merrill meets the expectations of the plea agreement, the remaining 29 indictments against him will be dismissed.
Specifically, the plea deal says that any incriminating evidence against Merrill will be dropped if it aids in the discovery of criminal activity. Merrill also agrees to testify to any grand jury as needed and will be subject to polygraphs. The plea agreement was signed yesterday
Merrill resigned from the Legislature Thursday, just hours before Friday's court hearing, according to House Speaker Jay Lucas' office.
The Berkeley County republican was indicted in December by special prosecutor David Pascoe who is heading up a state grand jury investigation of corruption at the State House. Merrill faces 30 charges, including misconduct in office.
Prosecutors say Merrill used hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for lobbying and benefiting groups like Association of Realtors, Student Transportation of America, Inc, Thomas & Hutton Engineering, Infilaw Management Solutions, Association of Convenience Stores, Trial Lawyer's Association and more.
So far, four lawmakers have been indicted in Pascoe's investigation, including Bobby Harrell, Rick Quinn and John Courson.
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