Former House majority leader pleads guilty to misconduct, must reveal known illegal activity at State House

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/WIS/AP) - Former South Carolina House Majority Leader Jim Merrill has pleaded guilty a day after turning in his resignation.

Judge Robert Hood sentenced Merrill to a year of probation after he pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in office. Solicitor David Pascoe says Merrill agrees to continue cooperating with state and federal investigations.

In his court hearing Friday morning, Merrill entered the guilty plea on only one count of the 30 counts that were lobbed against him last year as part of a probe into possible corruption at the State House.

The Charleston Republican had been suspended since a grand jury indicted him in December on two counts of misconduct in office and 28 counts of ethics violations. Merrill faced up to 66 years in prison and $146,000 in fines if convicted on all 30 counts. Merrill was accused of illegally profiting from his position.

Merrill has denied doing anything illegal.

Merrill's attorney, fellow lawmaker Leon Stavrinakis, stood with him in court.

"He's doing the right thing," Stavrinakis said. "He understands the mistake he's made in failing to report these payments."

Merrill was first elected to the House in 2000 and was majority leader from 2004 to 2008.

Copyright 2017 WCSC/WIS. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.