COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant has suspended longtime state Sen. John Courson (R-Richland) following his indictment on charges of misconduct in office and use of campaign funds for personal uses.
According to the indictment, Courson "unlawfully" converted $247,829.81 in campaign funds to his personal use through a political consulting firm owned by Richard Quinn & Associates. From there, the indictment said Quinn's group paid $132,802.95 to Courson personally. All this transpired over the course of 6 years, the indictment alleged.
His Florence attorney, Rose Mary Parham, told WIS the surprising process happened in only a matter of days.
She said Sen. Courson is scheduled to be in court the week of March 27.
"These allegations are completely false. I have done nothing wrong," Sen. Courson wrote in a statement released by his attorney. "I value my integrity and have spent all my years as a public servant embracing the highest standards of ethical conduct. I believe the most important things one leaves behind in this life are one's children and one's reputation. While it is unfortunate to be charged by a partisan democrat under questionable motives and authority. I have no doubt that I will be cleared and exonerated of these accusations."
The 72-year-old Courson has been in the Senate since 1985 and chairs the Senate Education Committee. As a Shandon resident, Marine Corps veteran, Keenan-Suggs Insurance Vice President and avid baseball fan who has toured many of the game's great ballparks, Courson has a reputation as one of the General Assembly's more moderate Republicans.
US Senate legend Strom Thurmond was among Courson's mentors and was also a close friend of his. In fact, Senator Courson led the effort to design and build the Thurmond monument near the Gressette Building south of the State House.
Courson's 32 years in office have included service as Senate President Pro Tem, chairing the Senate Education Committee, and as an ethics committee member. Several years ago, he received a lifetime achievement award from Common Cause, a government watchdog group, for his efforts on ethics reform.
He's the second lawmaker indicted in a probe of public corruption at the State House. Daniel Island Rep. Jim Merrill was indicted in December on charges including misconduct in office.
In a statement, Solicitor David Pascoe said the investigation continues and that Courson is innocent until proven guilty.