In his latest filing in the S.C. Supreme Court, Attorney General Alan Wilson decried leaks to the news media and asked the high court to let him fire special prosecutor David Pascoe and to dismiss actions that Pascoe has brought against Wilson in recent weeks.
“The Attorney General’s Office had the absolute right to discharge Solicitor Pascoe,” Wilson wrote.
Wilson’s filing is the most recent of a volley of legal actions between the attorney general and Pascoe, whom Wilson’s office appointed as a special prosecutor last July to continue a SLED investigation into possible public corruption in the Legislature.
Pascoe has made “many incorrect statements of law and fact,” including a “most audacious assertion” that “Solicitor Pascoe is the Attorney General,” Wilson writes.
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“This assertion is made as an effort to grab the constitutional and statutory authority of a popularly elected statewide office,” Wilson wrote in his latest response, filed Tuesday.
In previous filings, Pascoe has argued to the court that since Wilson recused himself and his office from investigating certain individuals in the Legislature because of Wilson’s ties to those people, Wilson cannot now step back into the investigation and terminate Pascoe’s involvement in it.
Pascoe “is demonstrably not the Attorney General and cannot claim that title under any circumstances,” Wilson wrote.
Wilson acknowledged he assigned Pascoe to be special prosecutor but told the court, “the power to ‘assign,’ of course, includes the power to ‘unassign’ a Solicitor to a criminal case outside that Solicitor’s circuit.”
Pascoe is 1st Circuit Solicitor, which includes Orangeburg, Calhoun and Dorchester counties, but the special investigation he was given because of Wilson’s conflict has apparently taken him into other parts of the state.
Pascoe earlier asserted that he, as the attorney general’s special prosecutor, has the right to activate, along with SLED Chief Mark Keel and a circuit court judge, the State Grand Jury. Wilson says state law says only the attorney general himself can join with Keel and a judge to activate the State Grand Jury.
According to legal documents, the dispute started last month as Keel and Pascoe got Circuit Judge Clifton Newman to sign a document that would activate a State Grand Jury investigation. Wilson and his office then tried to obstruct their efforts, according to Pascoe, and Pascoe filed legal actions in the Supreme Court to have the court declare who is in charge.
In his filing, Wilson implied — but provided no evidence to back up his claim — that Pascoe was leaking information about the case to the Charleston Post & Courier and The State newspaper.
Thus, Wilson said, “among the many reasons (to dismiss Pascoe) are the series of leaks of confidential information to the media, which have continued to occur.”
However, Wilson’s filing also contained a Sept. 25, 2015, letter from Pascoe to Wilson’s office in which Pascoe wrote that Wilson’s office itself gave information to The State newspaper that helped The State write an article earlier that month that had confidential information about the investigation.
Pascoe said Wednesday afternoon that Wilson’s office had sent its reply to him by U.S. mail and he had not read it yet.
The state Supreme Court has accepted the case in its original jurisdiction but has not indicated whether there will be oral arguments before the five justices, or whether it will simply issue a written opinion.
In the current dispute, there appears to be no middle ground — either Wilson will dismiss Pascoe, or Pascoe will get the authority to continue to investigating public corruption in the Legislature.
If Pascoe is dismissed, Wilson has said, he will appoint a new special prosecutor, 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson of Richland and Kershaw counties, and the investigation will continue.