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Fifth Circuit Solicitor tapped by Alan Wilson to continue corruption probe

Published: Mar. 28, 2016 at 8:07 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2016 at 12:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In a series of fast-moving developments, the South Carolina Attorney General's Office removed a special prosecutor named to investigate public corruption claims and named a new one.

Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson has been picked by Attorney General Alan Wilson to continue the investigation into the alleged claims after Wilson removed First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe.

Pascoe was chosen to handle the case last July after Attorney General Alan Wilson's office determined it had a conflict of interest. That happened as the State Law Enforcement Division investigated allegations against former House Speaker Bobby Harrell and other legislators. SLED had been looking into potential financial and ethical violations since February 2013. Harrell was eventually forced out of office and pleaded guilty to illegal use of campaign funds and falsifying expense accounts.

Late last week, Pascoe filed a complaint with the South Carolina Supreme Court, accusing State Grand Jury Clerk Jim Parks of obstructing SLED and the solicitor's investigators by refusing to administer an oath to appear before the jury and issue subpoenas in connection with other aspects of the SLED findings.

On Monday, Chief Deputy Attorney General John McIntosh took aim at Pascoe.

In a letter, McIntosh accused Pascoe of unlawfully and "surreptitiously" attempting to launch a grand jury investigation without approval from the attorney general. McIntosh said only the attorney general had authority to start a case before the jury. The deputy terminated Pascoe and said another solicitor or solicitors would take over the investigation.

But Monday evening, Pascoe rejected the order.

In a letter, Pascoe says McIntosh was aware since March 21 that Pascoe and SLED Chief Mark Keel intended to take the corruption allegations to the grand jury and were doing so with approval from Circuit Judge Clifton Newman. Pascoe says McIntosh instructed Parks not to administer oaths or issue subpoenas, effectively obstructing the investigation.

Pascoe's complaint to the Supreme Court says the Attorney General's decision to recuse his office and designate a special prosecutor gives that designee the same authority and duties as the Attorney General. In his letter, Pascoe says McIntosh's effort to "…un-recuse your office is in my opinion inconsistent with the law concerning recusal and an extraordinary position to take."

Pascoe says the McIntosh letter "does not alter my authority over this matter or, more importantly, Judge Newman's oversight to the Grand Jury."

The solicitor says he intends to "proceed on my current course."

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