Suspended SC Sen. Courson enters guilty plea, resigns from office
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - On the day his trial was scheduled to start, suspended South Carolina State Senate John Courson has entered a guilty plea and resigned from his office.
He pled guilty to one misconduct in office charge. The common law miscount carries up to 10 years in prison. Courson, who represented Richland County for 34 years, will not be sentenced yet until he follows through with the provisions laid out in the plea deal.
"What I did as far as reimburse the campaign expenses was not illegal, but the way- the process I did it in, I should have done it differently. And that's right. I agree with that," Courson said as he stood beside his wife and his attorney, Rose Mary Parham.
"He did it incorrectly, and so there was an improper disclosure to the public. And once he realized that, he decided to plead guilty and save the South Carolina taxpayers the expense of a jury trial," Parham added.
The March 2017 and October 2017 indictments charged Courson with misconduct in office and use of campaign funds for personal uses.
According to the indictments, 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.
Courson apologized to his constituents, saying: "I'm also very disappointed that I've let my constituents down by making an error in filing, and I apologize to them for that."
Courson, alongside others like legislators Richard Quinn, Jr., Tracy Edge, and James Harrison and political kingmaker Richard Quinn, Sr., were the focuses of a probe by Solicitor David Pascoe.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey issued a statement on Courson's resignation, saying:
Today the Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey issued the following statement following the resignation of John Courson from the South Carolina Senate:
John Courson's guilty plea and resignation should give the public confidence that no one is above the law, that elected officials - especially elected officials - are accountable for misconduct.
The people of Lexington and Richland counties who live in Senate District 20 have been without representation for too long, but today's events ensure they will have an active voice in the Senate before the new legislative session begins in January.
Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman released a statement following the resignation.
I am truly sorry for Senator Courson, his family and the Senate and will always think of him as a friend and colleague. However, his guilty plea clearly shows that he violated our citizens' trust and therefore should no longer be in office. There are important issues directly affecting the residents of District 20 and they deserve to have their voices heard at the State House. I look forward to serving with their chosen senator.
There will be an election to fill his seat in the Senate. There will be a special primary, a special run-off if necessary, and the election itself will be held with the general election this year, on November 6. There are already rumors of those considering running. Prominent Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian said he is considering it; Nathan Ballentine, a state representative currently running for re-election, said an answer from him as to to whether he's considering running for the Senate seat will come later.
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