Former S.C. Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Richland, is asking a state judge to allow him to remain free while he appeals his conviction on State House corruption charges.
The Columbia Republican’s lawyers are urging state Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen, who sentenced Harrison last month, to allow him to delay reporting to prison until after his appeal runs its course, a process that could take years.
“The defendant is not a flight risk and is no threat to the community,” Harrison’s lawyers, former SLED director Reggie Lloyd and state Rep. Hunter Limbaugh, wrote in a motion to the judge.
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Appeals in South Carolina, typically, can take a year or two, or more.
Harrison, 67, has a long record of public and military service, no previous criminal record and “documented health problems,” his lawyers wrote. During his five-day trial, Harrison suffered what he called a ministroke.
“We will be filing a response very soon,” special prosecutor David Pascoe said Thursday, declining further comment.
It is rare for a defendant to be allowed to stay out of prison while appealing their conviction, said Fielding Pringle, chief public defender for Richland and Kershaw counties.
“But each case is different, and a judge’s decision will be based on the circumstances of that case,” said Pringle, who has been a defense attorney for 20 years.
In their motion to delay Harrison’s imprisonment, his lawyers wrote the case against the former legislator “involved complex questions of legal interpretation of the State Ethics Act, jurisdiction of the state grand jury and other legal issues.”
Harrison, who represented parts of Columbia and Richland County, served more than 20 years in the S.C. House. For 18 years of that time, the attorney was chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee.
Evidence during his trial showed Harrison had been paid secretly more than $900,000 by the Richard Quinn political consulting firm to influence legislation favored by that firm’s clients. The payments were illegal, the prosecution contended, because the Quinn firm illegally was lobbying the Legislature for various corporate clients.
A Richland County jury convicted Harrison Oct. 26 of official misconduct and perjury.
In his appeal, Harrison argues there was insufficient evidence to convict him and the prosecution lacked jurisdiction to try him.