Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The state Attorney General says he will continue the criminal investigation into House Speaker Bobby Harrell, despite an order from a judge to stop it.
"The ethics violations themselves seemed to us to present a pattern that certainly could rise to the level of corruption," said Ashley Landess, President of the South Carolina Policy Council. "That's why we went to the attorney general first and that's why we always believed this was a criminal matter."
Landess wrote the initial complaint that started the battle over who should investigate alleged ethics violations against the speaker.
"We believe we're dealing with corruption and what this ruling effectively says is that we have no advocate in the criminal justice system when it comes to dealing with politicians and corruption," Landess said.
Judge Casey Manning's ruling says "the allegations of the citizen's complaint giving rise to this investigation were conclusively within the Ethics Code. Despite multiple requests, the Attorney General has failed to offer or present to the Court any evidence or allegations which are criminal in nature."
The order not only said the court didn't have jurisdiction in the case, but further ordered the State Grand Jury or any other agency to stop investigating.
According to the order, the case belongs in the House Ethics Committee, which investigates legislators on ethics matters and does not handle criminal violations
"You look at the substance and not the appearance of it. The substance of it, it's a criminal complaint," said John Crangle of Common Cause South Carolina. "She uses the term public corruption. There is no such thing as non-criminal public corruption."
Crangle says he may file his own compliant against Harrell.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General says he'll keep the original investigation open and can do so while the case is under appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The Attorney General and SLED say because of that continuing investigation, they will not release a SLED report detailing SLED's investigation into Harrell.
"This entire thing has been political in nature," said Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston). "It hasn't been about the law and that's obvious and proven today by the Attorney General choosing to defy the court order."