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Prosecutor: Judge wrong to give lawmaker probation

February 17, 2018

Former state Rep. Rick Quinn talk to the media after here was sentenced to two years of probation Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at the Beaufort County Courthouse in Beaufort, S.C. Quinn pleaded guilty to a single charge of misconduct in office on Dec. 13, 2017. (Jay Karr/The Island Packet via AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A prosecutor wants a judge to throw out a sentence of probation against a South Carolina lawmaker, saying her unwillingness to listen to his legal arguments left him worried the judge’s “impartiality has been undermined,” according to legal papers.

Prosecutor David Pascoe said Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen also didn’t follow the legal rules Monday when she said she refused to consider all the details Pascoe presented and instead based her sentence on what the defense said during the guilty plea in December.

Former state Rep. Rich Quinn Jr. was sentenced to two years of probation, a $1,000 fine and 500 hours of community service. Pascoe had asked for the maximum of one year in prison on the misconduct in office charge.

Quinn only admitted in his plea to failing to report income from one source. Pascoe presented a much wider plot of Quinn and his powerful political consultant father, Richard Quinn Sr., accepting close to $4 million from a number of companies, and the lawmaker lobbying on behalf of those companies, promoting or killing bills and getting money back from his father’s business.

During the 10-minute sentencing Monday, Pascoe tried to object several times to Mullen’s decision to only consider the information the defense presented, but Mullen refused to hear his arguments, once telling him to sit down.

And before the guilty plea in December, Pascoe said Mullen met with prosecutors and defense attorneys in her chambers. She told Pascoe to “go light on the facts so the plea won’t blow up,” Pascoe wrote in court papers.

Mullen’s conduct “flies in the face of constitutional law and South Carolina law,” Pascoe wrote in a rare forceful and public challenge of a judge by a lawyer.

Mullen said when she sentenced Quinn Jr. to probation that she felt he already paid a high price with a criminal record and the destruction of his political career and the family’s political consulting business. Part of the plea deal with Quinn was an agreement to drop criminal charges against his father.

Quinn Jr., a Republican, has repeatedly called the prosecution politically motivated. Pascoe ran for office as a Democrat and successfully fought Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson’s efforts to take back the case after Pascoe continued to investigate lawmakers after former House Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty in 2014. Quinn has said Pascoe wanted to weaken Wilson so he could win a race for attorney general.

The judge cut Pascoe off several times during the sentencing hearing when he tried to raise an objection to Quinn’s plea. She also noted that if the prosecutor wanted to assure a stiff sentence for Quinn, he should have taken him to trial and got convictions.

Quinn is the third lawmaker to plead guilty in the probe. All three have received probation.

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