Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Former State House majority leader Jim Merrill pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in office on Friday. The Charleston County Republican will not serve jail time.
The 29 other charges against Merrill have not been dropped, but they could be, provided he fully cooperates with the state's ongoing investigation.
Merrill walked into the court hearing smiling and talking to people in the court room. He already knew how he'd plead, as Prosecutor David Pascoe said he signed a deal the night before.
"I plead guilty, sir," Merrill said to Judge Robert E. Hood.
The guilty plea was for using his position as a lawmaker for personal profit. His remaining 29 charges are up in the air, as per his agreement with Pascoe.
"In exchange for his cooperation with the State of South Carolina, and the United States of America - collectively the government - the remaining indictments will be dismissed if the defendant's cooperation substantially assists the government with the investigation of prosecution of criminal activity," Pascoe said at the hearing.
In the plea, Merrill agreed to testify against others as needed, take polygraph tests, and fully disclose any evidence that points to criminal activity in the State House.
"The state will proceed with the prosecution of the defendant on all the remaining indictments if the defendant fails to abide by the terms," Pascoe said.
Merrill's lawyers say he voluntarily came clean to law enforcement back in March without any promises of a deal.
"Mr. Merrill is going to continue to tell the truth, and to cooperate with the government," said Matthew Hubbell, Merrill's lawyer. "He has accepted responsibility for this misdemeanor, so we're pleased to reach this resolution with the solicitor."
Judge Robert Hood sentenced Merrill to one year in prison, but suspended that sentence. Merrill will serve one year on probation.