State Supreme Court reverses circuit court ruling in Harrell ethics case

(Bill Burr/WCIV)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of the Attorney General's office, saying Alan Wilson does have the authority to push forward with a grand jury investigation into House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

"The Court reversed the circuit court order finding the state grand jury lacks subject matter jurisdiction to investigate a violation of the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act, and remanded the matter to the circuit court for a decision on whether the Attorney General should be disqualified from participating in these state grand jury proceedings," the ruling reads.

Harrell expressed disappointment in the ruling Wednesday evening.

"We are disappointed with the court's ruling but in no way did the court take exception to our original contention that another prosecutor should take over this case because of the Attorney General's inappropriate conduct," he said in a statement.

Harrell went on the say his legal team has always asked for an impartial prosecutor to handle the case, something he says was noted by the Supreme Court.

"As the Circuit Court ruling stated, after more than a year of investigations the Attorney General was still pursuing this case even though he could not point to a single shred of evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Clearly the Attorney General's motivations have been corrupted by political motives and that is why he needs to be replaced with a fair and impartial prosecutor," Harrell said.

In May, a circuit court judge tossed out the grand jury case against Harrell, saying the case first had to go to the House Ethics Committee.

Judge Casey Manning disagreed with Wilson's position that the State Constitution should carry more weight than state law. But Manning said Wilson "failed to offer or present to the court any evidence or allegations which are criminal in nature."

Wilson's office said after the ruling it would continue its legal battles against Harrell and filed with the state's Supreme Court.

Wilson and State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel spent nearly a year compiling campaign funding information to show that Harrell converted donations to his campaign into personal use. That information was put together into a report for the Grand Jury.

The investigation into Harrell has been going for nearly two years.