No action has been taken for 15 months on a state grand jury indictment against Richard Quinn, the alleged mastermind of an underground influence-peddling ring that has thrived for years in the General Assembly of the SC.
The 38-page indictment, issued by a state grand jury in May 2021, charges Quinn with 12 counts of perjury and two counts of obstructing justice.
The charges contain alleged details of how Quinn, 77, kept secret for years payments from his lobbying firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, to key SC House and Senate lawmakers to influence legislation. Quinn then lied about those associations to a special state grand jury under former special prosecutor David Pascoe, according to the indictment.
The indictment also alleged that Quinn lied to the state grand jury during sworn testimony when he told them he was not being paid by state Attorney General Alan Wilson. when Quinn had written press releases and other materials for the Attorney General while on warrant for Wilson.
Rauch Wise, an attorney for Quinn, told The State newspaper last week that he was trying to get a motion to dismiss the charges against his client before South Carolina Judge Carmen Mullen, a trial judge in the ‘affair.
But he couldn’t. Lawyers Cindy Crick and Shaun Kent are also representing Quinn.
“We are awaiting a hearing on our motion to dismiss the case,” Wise said. “A hearing has been tentatively scheduled, but is constantly being pushed back.”
Wise’s motion, filed last October, argues that in 2017, when Quinn pleaded guilty in front of Mullen to the misdemeanor charge of failing to register as a lobbyist, he accepted a plea deal. This plea agreement prevented any evidence gathered in this investigation from being used “in any way” against Quinn.
The evidence in the 2021 indictment against Quinn is from the previous investigation and therefore cannot be used as the basis for the new indictment, the motion states.
“The plea deal was designed to avoid this very scenario (perjury charges), and state promises must be kept,” the motion reads.
However, in 2017 and 2018, Pascoe testified in open court that if Quinn testified to what he knew before a state grand jury and lied, Quinn would be prosecuted for perjury. Pascoe has since been replaced as prosecutor by 7th Judicial Circuit attorney Barry Barnette, who filed the new indictment against Quinn in May 2021 based on what Quinn told the state’s grand jury. in 2018.
Mullen, of Beaufort County, was the first judge appointed to hear the General Assembly’s public bribery cases as part of a broad state Law Enforcement Division investigation from 2016-2020 about involving Pascoe and a state grand jury.
Mullen was recently mentioned in news stories about disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh, who faces murder and fraud charges.
She was a judge in the now-recognized distribution of $4.3 million in Murdaugh’s liability insurance payout, most of which ended up in Murdaugh’s accounts instead of going to his housekeeper’s estate of longtime, Gloria Satterfield. Satterfield died after being injured in a fall in 2019 at Murdaugh’s.
Mullen did not respond to an email asking when a hearing would be scheduled.
Quinn’s political empire
Pascoe and SLED’s investigation became one of the most successful public corruption investigations in recent state history.
It revealed a hidden political empire dubbed “Quinndom” which was fueled by Quinn’s hidden money flows.
It also led to the conviction and guilty plea of three former lawmakers: Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, the eldest Quinn’s son; Sen. John Courson, R-Richland; and Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley.
A fourth former lawmaker, Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Richland, had left office before Pascoe’s investigation began.
But a review of Quinn’s state grand jury subpoena records showed that Harrison received nearly $900,000 in secret payments from Quinn over 13 years in exchange for supportive legislation benefiting some clients of Quinn.
Harrison maintained he was innocent of wrongdoing, but in 2018 a Richland County jury found him guilty of perjury and misconduct. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison but released on parole after five months.
Before beginning to use a state grand jury in 2016, Pascoe had been appointed as a special prosecutor by Attorney General Wilson in a 2014 investigation into misconduct charges against then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell. R-Charleston.
The investigation was successful. Harrell pleaded guilty in October 2014 and resigned from office.
Quinn’s influence with state legislators and federal officials was legendary.
Leading institutions including the University of South Carolina, former electric utility SCANA, AT&T, SC Association for Justice, and former Palmetto Health, now part of Prisma Health, have already paid Quinn and his company hundreds of thousands of dollars to help represent their interests.
Over the years, Quinn had served as a paid consultant to top Republicans, including U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Governor Henry McMaster, Wilson, Courson, and U.S. Representative Joe Wilson, R-Springdale.
Special Prosecutor Barnette could not be reached by the press deadline.