Embattled prosecutor claims former solicitor promised him an '[expletive]-storm'

Dan Johnson and Byron Gipson each took part in the Fifth Circuit Solicitor forum on Monday night. (Source: WIS)
Dan Johnson and Byron Gipson each took part in the Fifth Circuit Solicitor forum on Monday night. (Source: WIS)

(WIS) - When the two candidates for Fifth Circuit Solicitor met for a forum Monday night, right out of the gate the question was integrity with the solicitor's office, which oversees criminal cases in Richland and Kershaw Counties, currently under SLED and FBI investigation after thousands of bank statements and receipts showed questionable spending by Solicitor Dan Johnson and his staff.

"Jim Anders was accused of things that he didn't do. Barney Giese was accused of things that he didn't do. I am being accused of things that I did not 
do," said Johnson. "I did not do the things that they allege. I work for you, and I will do that with every bone and conviction in my body."

As Johnson put his foot down, Byron Gipson, Johnson's challenger, pledged regular audits and restored integrity. 

"You should never hear that a solicitor's office is being investigated by FBI or SLED. The solicitor's supposed to be helping lead the investigations run by the FBI and SLED," said Gipson.

At least one person in the crowd wasn't satisfied with the solicitor's response and asked Johnson why records seem to show he's out of the country so often on the public's dime.

"I'm also in the Air Guard, and I'm not going to apologize that sometimes I have to go serve the country," Johnson said in response.

His opponent hit back.

"Inherent in the word prosecutor is the word prosecute, so if I'm elected I will prosecute cases actively," Gipson said.

But perhaps the moment of the night happened at the very end. Someone in the crowd asked about the watchdog group that's released all the documents against Johnson. The group, known as PAPR, has a former solicitor, Dick Harpootlian, as its attorney. Johnson seemed to reveal that Harpootlian had an ax to grind against him after a decision he made related to a court case.

"He told me he would rain an s-storm down on me, because he didn't like the decision that I made," the solicitor said of Harpootlian. "And I said, 'Good luck. Do what you do.'"

Harpootlian, when reached for a comment, called the solicitor a liar.

"The records are the records," he said. "If Dan Johnson wants to blame somebody, he should look in the mirror."

Johnson and Gipson will face off for one more debate before the primary next week.

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