By Paul Gable
The S.C. Supreme Court ruled earlier today that the state grand jury, Attorney General Alan Wilson and SLED may continue with an investigation into possible ethics and criminal violations by S. C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell.
This reverses a ruling made after a May 12th hearing in District Court, by Judge Casey Manning, which ordered the investigation halted and the grand jury disbanded.
In his ruling, Manning stated that the S.C. House Ethics Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over investigation of ethics violations by Harrell or other members of the House and only the Ethics Committee can refer an investigation to the AG or grand jury.
The Supreme Court ruling allows the grand jury to stay in place and investigations of Harrell to continue until a full hearing on Wilson’s appeal of the Manning ruling is heard June 24th.
The case against Harrell was investigated by SLED for approximately nine months before SLED reported enough evidence existed to turn the case over to the state grand jury for possible indictment of Harrell on criminal charges. The grand jury has been investigating the case since January 2014.
What could make today’s ruling really dicey is if the grand jury finds a true bill and issues an indictment against Harrell before the June 24th hearing.
Today’s ruling must come as a shock to Harrell who successfully supported Chief Justice Jean Toal for re-election as chief justice earlier this legislative session. After Harrell successfully led the bid to keep Toal in place, he must have thought he had the Supreme Court wired.
Today’s ruling has to give the Speaker pause as to whether he will prevail on June 24th, which before today seemed to be a lock, or even if the case will get that far.
The struggle between Harrell and Wilson seemed to be leaning in Harrell’s direction until today’s ruling.