Harrell hearing ends without judge's decision - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Harrell hearing ends without judge's decision

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House Speaker Bobby Harrell House Speaker Bobby Harrell
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Judge Casey Manning ended Friday morning's hearing between House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Attorney General Alan Wilson without making a decision and said he planned on taking his time.

Attorneys for Wilson and Harrell met in the latest hearing on a request to remove Wilson from the ethics case against Harrell.

At stake in this trial is whether or not the State Grand Jury should investigate claims against Harrell that he's using his office for political gain.

"What choice do we have?" said Ashley Landess with SC Policy Council. "Who is our advocate if not the attorney general when we believe a crime has been committed. And it did seem to us, not only what we could see to rise to that level but there were additional matters that we raised with the attorney general that were not necessarily in the complaint."

Friday's hearing attracted a range of legal and political heavyweights including three former state attorneys general: Travis Medlock, Charlie Condon, and Henry McMaster. All were there to back Wilson's authority to take the claims against Harrell to the State Grand Jury.

The speaker's attorneys want this matter dealt with by the House Ethics Committee first and they say back in October 2012 and citing state law, that's exactly what Wilson said should happen.

One thing that changed after Wilson issued a statement on the matter in 2012: intervention by groups including Common Cause and the South Carolina Policy Council for the attorney general's office to take the case to the grand jury.

A WIS investigation delved deeper into Harrell's campaign spending after seeing him directly reimbursing himself from his campaign. He spent nearly $300,000 on travel -- much of that went to pay for flights on his private plane.

Harrell also spent campaign cash on cell phones, computers, equipment, and for membership to two of the city's private dinner clubs.

Wilson handed over his review of ethics allegations against Harrell to the State Grand Jury at the beginning of the legislative session. The announcement came a month after the state's chief prosecutor received an investigative report from the State Law Enforcement Division.

The speaker has maintained that he has done nothing wrong and wants Wilson to publicly release a state police review of allegations against him.

Manning says he is going to take his time deciding on what to do next.

"I'm going to do the best we can based on what I've heard today … everybody is trying to do the right thing," says Manning.

He told the audience his ruling will not come over the next couple of days and it might be a week or more before he comes to a conclusion.

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