Former Lexington County Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. said after pleading guilty in a Statehouse corruption case that he has to find a way to repair his name.
The former House majority leader and son of influential Republican consultant Richard Quinn Sr. clearly believes he has ammunition to do just that – largely by continuing efforts to discredit special prosecutor and 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe.
Of the plea bargain that reduced his case to one misdemeanor charge and included an agreement not to seek prosecution against his father, Quinn was outspoken after receiving a probationary sentence on Monday.
“If Mr. Pascoe really believed all those accusations, he would have taken me to trial. … He didn’t because he knew he couldn’t prove those false allegations,” Quinn told media during a press conference outside the courthouse in Beaufort.
Pascoe told the court during Quinn’s December plea hearing that the former lawmaker gained more than $4 million in unreported money from lobbyists to pass bills and regulations for powerful groups and corporations. Pascoe said offenses occurred over a seven-year period of misconduct by Quinn and his father’s firm, which is connected to many Republican leaders.
Again Monday, Quinn denied taking money for political favors. He said his only crime was failing to disclose a single lobbying firm that had made payments to his father's business.
"I have never used my office for personal gain," Quinn said.
He said he only agreed to the guilty plea and to resign his House seat after 21 years to end the matter without Pascoe pursuing cases against his father and other family members. In exchange for Quinn's guilty plea, Pascoe dropped corruption charges against Quinn Sr.
On Monday, Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen’s words and decisions gave further ammunition to Quinn’s claims. She rejected Pascoe’s contention that Quinn has not sufficiently admitted guilt in his plea by specifically having the former lawmaker state that he is guilty of the misdemeanor. She stated that if Pascoe had wanted other charges considered, he should have tried Quinn on those charges. And the judge denied the prosecutor an on-the-record objection to the validity of the guilty plea.
The judge rightly stated in making her decision on sentencing Quinn that she must not consider any of the list of accusations Pascoe made against the former lawmaker.
“The court of public opinion may presume his guilt as to those allegations, but I cannot. If the solicitor wanted Rick Quinn to be punished for his actions, he should have tried him on all counts indicted or negotiated a different plea,” Mullen said.
While not explaining his decision to agree to a Quinn plea on one count only, Pascoe said after the Monday court proceedings and in the wake of Quinn’s comments that he has never had a judge deny him the right to object.
He said he, as a Democrat, is not politically motivated in the Statehouse corruption probe overall and in the case against Quinn – which may not be over.
In silencing Pascoe on an objection, the judge said during the hearing: “You can take it up with the Court of Appeals if you believe in any way I’m wrong.”
With the validity of his investigation being questioned continually, along with the legitimacy of the Quinn indictments because of a decision not to go to trial, Pascoe must decide whether an appeal only becomes a legal sideshow with little to be gained. Quinn said in court on Monday he admits guilt to the misdemeanor.
But there is the matter of the ongoing investigation and the mandate that Quinn’s father testify before the state grand jury. We expect that will become Pascoe’s focus.
Pascoe said Monday he did not ask for the job as special prosecutor when appointed in 2014. But after all the battles since, including winning a legal dispute with the attorney general to retain the post, Pascoe must stay the course without regard to the inevitable (and we continue to believe inaccurate) accusations that he is politically motivated.