Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Several top lawmakers and political consultants have been indicted for criminal conspiracy as part of an ongoing probe into corruption in South Carolina government.
First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, the special prosecutor leading the probe, announced Wednesday the formal charges against Richard Quinn Sr., Rep. Richard Quinn Jr., Sen. John Courson, former Rep. Tracy Edge, and former Rep. James Harrison.
The State Grand Jury indicted Richard Quinn Sr. with criminal conspiracy and failure to register as a lobbyist. He is a longtime political consultant who has advised some of South Carolina's top Republicans. The illegal lobbying indictment said Quinn did "attempt to influence the action of vote of members of the South Carolina General Assembly by direct communication on behalf of entities which employed, retained, or appointed defendant's business and defendant did not register as a lobbyist..."
Debbie Barbier, who represents Quinn Sr., said in a statement: "We're not going to try the case in the media. We're going to try the case in the court of law. Richard Quinn is innocent. We look forward to defending these charges vigorously."
Former Representatives Tracy Edge and Jim Harrison face several charges. Edge was indicted for criminal conspiracy, common law misconduct in office, statutory misconduct in office and perjury. Harrison was indicted for criminal conspiracy, common law misconduct in office and statutory misconduct in office.
The Grand Jury also issued additional indictments against two lawmakers, who were already charged.
Representative Rick Quinn was charged with criminal conspiracy, while Senator John Courson was charged with criminal conspiracy and statutory misconduct in the office. Both are suspended from office.
Quinn Sr. and Quinn Jr. run a political consulting firm, Richard Quinn & Associates. Edge was a former chairman of the House Healthcare Budget Committee, Courson is the former President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Harrison is the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
"At this point in the process, the indictments are mere accusations," said Pascoe in a statement. "The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I also need to point out that this is still an ongoing investigation. Therefore, I will have no further comment regarding this matter."
A criminal conspiracy charge is the most serious potential offense, and faces a penalty of up to five years in prison.
A bond hearing has not been set for the five men.