COLUMBIA, SC (AP) - A judge has dismissed a case involving House Speaker Bobby Harrell.
Circuit Judge Casey Manning said in a ruling issued Monday the courts system is not the appropriate venue for the case.
The State Grand Jury has been considering whether Harrell should be indicted on allegations he used his influence for his own personal benefit.
Manning's decision is similar to one he previously made regarding ethics allegations against Gov. Nikki Haley, a former House member. The House Ethics Committee ultimately cleared her of all charges.
Harrell's lawyers argued their client's case should be dealt with identically. Attorney General Alan Wilson had said the Harrell matter is criminal and therefore must be dealt with in court.
Wilson said in a statement he would appeal and seek to continue the investigation.
Harrell issued the following statement:
"We are pleased with the court's ruling that the politically motivated exceptions forced on this matter were inappropriate and that the proper legal process – not a political process – should be followed. The law is very clear on this matter and the judge made the right decision – and prior to inserting himself politically in this one case, it was a law the Attorney General had always followed.
"The Constitution, state law, court rulings and even Attorney General Wilson's own official positions and precedents all reinforce this ruling. Mr. Wilson even acknowledged the fact that his office did not have the constitutional or legal authority to act as it did, yet he did it anyway.
"It's a disappointing fact that had this matter been placed in the hands of an impartial prosecutor free of political motivations from the start, this complaint would have been thoroughly investigated, properly dismissed and rightfully exposed as baseless political mudslinging long ago.
"This entire process – both the mishandling of this matter and the allegations made – reeks of politics. The Court's ruling supports what we have said from the start, that these allegations are political and do not rise to the level of criminal wrongdoing, by stating in its ruling that: 'Despite multiple requests, the Attorney General has failed to offer or present to the Court any evidence or allegations which are criminal in nature.'
"Very rarely do legitimate allegations begin with press releases and media spectacles, but that is precisely the political game a special interest group and Attorney General Wilson decided to play. Mr. Wilson even went as far as to issue a purposefully timed press release announcing the 'secret' grand jury less than 24 hours before the start of this year's legislative session – public comments about grand jury proceedings are a direct violation of the law.
"These allegations, crafted by a secretly-funded Libertarian political organization, are nothing more than the baseless mudslinging of a vindictive smear campaign. This is a group driven by personal and political vendetta because of how their organization's president lost a coveted government appointment when I became House Speaker."