Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Attorneys for House Speaker Bobby Harrell asked a judge Friday to bench Attorney General Alan Wilson from an ethics case against Harrell after allegations the AG intimidated Harrell's chief of staff.
Circuit Judge Casey Manning said Frida, hearings on the decision would be open to the public, but that he would not decide if Wilson will be allowed to prosecute the case until next Wednesday.
"The attorney general held a meeting that was totally inappropriate meeting with my chief of staff, and made comments within that meeting where he made it clear to my chief of staff to be conveyed back to me that were not appropriate and created the conflict for him," Harrell said after the hearing Friday.
The meeting discussed in testimony was between the Attorney General and Harrell's Chief of Staff. Harrell said his Chief of Staff was threatened during a discussion about legislation for a Public Integrity Unit, a new group that would review government ethics concerns.
"It was clear to me the Attorney General was saying to my Chief of Staff that this legislation was incredibly important to him, that I was the only thing standing in the way of it, and that he wanted my support for that legislation," Harrell said.
Attorney General Alan Wilson though says he was trying to avoid any appearance of a back room conversation while SLED was investigating Harrell at Wilson's request.
"I just didn't want people to see me walking into his office or he walking into mine, when all of a sudden we've got all these cameras and all these people out here yelling that the Attorney General is meeting with the target of an investigation," Wilson said under oath.
Hearings about benching Wilson from the ethics case could have been private but Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning ruled they'd be open. The decision was significant because the ethics case is before a state grand jury and under seal.
"I just wanted to convey to Mr Wright that I didn't want any tensions, I didn't want the PIU (public integrity unit) to be collateral damage and to convey to Mr. Wright for the speaker that our referring to SLED was just an everyday normal activity," Wilson said. "I had no issues with the speaker."