Rick Quinn won’t go to prison as Pascoe wished

State House

David Pascoe didn’t get his way on Rick Quinn, as the former lawmaker was sentenced to community service and probation Monday.

A judge Monday sentenced former state Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, to one year in prison and then suspended that sentence.

Instead, Quinn will have to do 500 hours of community service and serve two years of probation.

Quinn, 52, a 20-year House veteran known for his political influence, entered a guilty plea to misconduct in office in December. The offense carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.

Quinn’s sentence had been the subject of speculation and a fierce behind-the-scenes legal battle between prosecutors and defense attorneys since his unexpected guilt plea in December….

This is not terribly surprising. Although Pascoe at a recent hearing presented a 30-minute Power Point detailing crimes allegedly committed by Quinn, the Republican’s guilty plea only covered “one, basically, technical violation — failing to report a one-time payment of roughly $28,000 by the University of South Carolina, an institution that lobbies the Legislature, to a company that Quinn had a link to….”

Pascoe had portrayed the younger Quinn as the worst of the worse, saying “There has been no one more corrupt than Rick Quinn.”

And this is all he can successfully pin on him? The prosecutor wanted Quinn to spend a year in prison. But the judge suspended the sentence.

Not that this corruption investigation is over. Sen. John Courson’s trial is coming up.

And we have yet to see whether Pascoe’s allegations about AG Alan Wilson will lead to anything…

34 thoughts on “Rick Quinn won’t go to prison as Pascoe wished

  1. Bryan Caskey

    This is not terribly surprising. Although Pascoe at a recent hearing presented a 30-minute Power Point detailing crimes allegedly committed by Quinn, the Republican’s guilty plea only covered “one, basically, technical violation — failing to report a one-time payment of roughly $28,000 by the University of South Carolina, an institution that lobbies the Legislature, to a company that Quinn had a link to….”

    Exactly. People don’t go to prison for a one-time paperwork crime. If Quinn, Sr.’s testimony in front of the grand jury doesn’t lead to more, I’m not sure what this whole thing was all about.

    1. Doug Ross

      It’s about a corrupt system with power that exceeds the enforcement and prosecution capabilities. Nothing new here. The Quinns got rich providing altruistic services to the people of South Carolina, that’s all. We’re all better for their sacrifices.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Doug, why does it have to be all black or all white with you? Why is it either that they’re all crooks or “We’re all better for their sacrifices.” (And we know which of the two you’d pick.)

        Why can’t it be a gray muddle, without angels or devils?

        1. Mark Stewart

          I don’t think there is anything grey about the Quinn’s. They are a corrupting force. Full stop.

          Rick Quinn pled guilty to a felony. Whatever it is specifically, I will take his word that he is “guilty”. Negotiations are a tricky business; Pascoe won big with the plea, and didn’t fair as well with the sentencing. But he sure got a lot on the record.

          Game’s not over; we shall see.

          1. Claus2

            Actually it was plead down to a misdemeanor… so what he’s guilty of is no more damaging to him than a parking ticket.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            At the risk of being accused yet again by Doug of sticking up for these guys in the black hats, he pled to a misdemeanor, not a felony.

            I think that’s what had Pascoe freaking out after the December hearing. Something got past him, and he only realized it after. After that, he seemed desperate to a) see Quinn get prison time and b) make him admit that he’d committed a crime. He was unsuccessful on both counts.

            I’m not sure what happened. Up to that point, Pascoe seemed to have the upper hand. But something went wrong for the prosecution in December, and nothing I’ve read has made clear just what that was…

            1. Mark Stewart

              Really? Wow. Someone either was sneaky as hell or else someone made a huge blunder…

              Well, he’s still guilty as stink in my mind. This isn’t the court of law; I’m entitled to my opinion.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            All the ones I “ignore,” eh?

            It must be something to be able to see straight into men’s souls and know everything about them. Apparently, there are a lot of people out there you KNOW are crooks, based on evidence that a lot of us have missed. And because I DON’T “know” what you “know,” I’m “ignoring” them…

          1. Mark Stewart

            I’ll have to disagree there. In the real world it isn’t all so clear. Life is complicated; life forces hard decisions at times.

            1. Doug Ross

              Hard decisions to steal money or not? Every day I am faced with the decision of whether to become a crook or not… somehow I am able to resist that urge.

              I’m really interested in hearing Senator Courson’s defense strategy.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                I am, too. I just look at it differently. I see it as a tragedy, a very sad situation for a good man to have fallen this way.

                You just can’t wait to see these no-good sons of bitches get what they so richly deserve.

                Or do I exaggerate?

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Oh, and before you go overreacting to my using the unforgivable words, “a good man,” I’m talking about John Courson — not Rick Quinn, not Bobby Harrell, not whomever.

                  This is not further “evidence” of what you imagine to be a tendency to glorify all those “crooks” who are so evil as to hold public office….

                2. Doug Ross

                  I can’t wait for justice to be served. It’s never tragedy when someone knowingly commits a crime. A tragedy is the guy who gets killed by a drunk driver. The drunk driver is the criminal.

                  It’s not tragic to set up a scheme to launder money. Not at all.

            1. Doug Ross

              Ok, bud, please tell us about the times you stole money.

              I didn’t say everyone is perfect. But it is possible to avoid committing illegal acts if you want to. Everyone has that capability. There is no grey area when it comes to theft.

          2. JesseS

            Eh, this one kinda goes down like heroes. In real life there is no Superman; there are no heroes. There are people who perform heroic acts. Yes, there are people who seem to have no end to their selflessness, but even they might kick a dog or back bite someone once or twice in their life.

            We’ve all done something unethical. Not that I’m giving Quinn a pass, but none of us are wholly ethical or unethical. Cato might have loved republican virtue, but he cut rations for slaves because they were lazy enough to get sick.

            At the same time I can understand your rage. Who wouldn’t want to throw Michael Conahan, the judge guilty of tossing innocent children into a jail for cash payoffs, off of the Tarpeian Rock?

            So the questions I always have to ask myself are:

            Is this really a Tarpeian Rock moment?

            Why didn’t we have a better system in place to make sure such bad behavior doesn’t happen?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I think I may have been warped in my youth by covering murders and kidnappings and such, and even getting to know some of the perps.

              THOSE were some bad guys, and it was a great relief to see them go away for a long time.

              And while I think pols who break the rules should pay the price, I can’t quite get to the point of despising them completely.

              Although there are areas where the two categories overlap. What Rob Porter is credibly charged with doing would, if true, make HIM a violent criminal. And the sympathy that the president of the United States was able to muster for him, and not for the victims, puts Trump himself beyond the pale.

              I can’t think, right offhand, when anybody in SC politics has been THAT contemptible in recent years…

        2. Claus2

          Why do you keep defending politicians like they’re rock stars who should be idolized? They’re closer to used car salesman who cheat old ladies out of their bingo money as long as it benefits them than they help people. I bet if you lined up all of the State House elected officials I couldn’t find more than a handful who meet your good graces.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “Why do you keep defending politicians like they’re rock stars who should be idolized?”

            But you see, I don’t. In fact, that’s rather absurd hyperbole on your part, worse even than Doug’s sarcastic “The Quinns got rich providing altruistic services to the people of South Carolina, that’s all. We’re all better for their sacrifices.”

            You and Doug both have trouble understanding what I write, even though I take care with the words.

            And I think it’s because you think they’re all bad people because they’re in politics, and the ones who get in trouble are just the ones who got caught.

            I just see them as people. And I neither exaggerate nor underestimate the good and evil they do.

            People who break the law should be punished proportionally. Period. But I look at it dispassionately, not vengefully…

            1. Claus2

              You don’t see the bias you have toward politicians like I (and possibly Doug) do. It’s almost like these are the “cool kids on the block” that you so want to hang out with. Whereas I wouldn’t cross the street to talk to them. I don’t have the admiration or respect for politicians like you do.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Nope. Politicians are just people. And I’m probably a lot less impressed with them than most people are, because I know them. They’re demystified in my eyes — I see them, as a group, as neither heroes nor sleazebags.

                I see them in a neutral way — as no better or worse than anyone else — and you see them as all bad. That’s the difference between us. Or one of them, anyway.

            2. Doug Ross

              “and the ones who get in trouble are just the ones who got caught.”

              But isn’t it obvious to assume that we only know about the ones who get caught? There are more of them who have avoided getting caught, right?

              I’m not saying 100% of politicians are corrupt… but there are a higher percentage of them who “get caught” than pretty much any other profession I’m aware of… And it typically is the leadership who have been in office the longest who get caught. A function of their tenure is the opportunity to exploit the system for their own gain (legally or illegally).

              Of all the people you have worked with in your career, how many were arrested for business ethics violations?

              1. Doug Ross

                Examine what Senator Courson is accused of:

                Pascoe says he made payments from his campaign account to Quinn and then received personal checks in return that he deposited in his own account.

                That’s not a momentary lapse of judgment. That’s a coordinated plan to launder money if he is convicted. That isn’t the behavior of an ethical person.

                And then when he was indicted, the news somehow came out that he was “battling” skin cancer.. and then his lawyer tried to get the case dropped on technicalities rather than allowing the facts to prove Courson’s innocence.

                Let’s say he is found guilty. What does that say about his character then? He has had ample time to admit his guilt and ask for forgiveness. If he does that AFTER the conviction, it doesn’t hold much honor in my opinion — “I’m sorry I got caught” is not admirable.

                And I ask you to consider this — what purpose would these financial transaction serve for Courson or the Quinns? Why would there be any reason to do this unless the Quinns expected something in return? What was in it for them?

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Oh, I’ve considered all those things. That’s why I see it as such a terrible situation. It looks very bad for Courson, and I hate to see it. I’m appalled.

                  The noble Pascoe
                  Hath told you Courson laundered money:
                  If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
                  And grievously should Courson answer it….

                  But I’m sorry to see it…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Doug, to digress a bit…

                    The reason I’m having this seemingly pointless discussion, which is possibly accomplishing nothing but reinforcing your (erroneous) conviction that I have an unrealistically rosy view of politicians, is this…

                    I worry about something that to me is way, way bigger than Courson or Pascoe or the Quinns or any of that. I worry about the reflexive cynicism that has eaten away at our politics in this country.

                    Far, far, far too many people seem to think that politicians are scum, and that the thing that makes them scum is not this or that thing they’ve done, but the fact that they are politicians.

                    That phenomenon has led quite directly to the worst political development in the history of our country — the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. Yeah, I know that you don’t see that, but that’s because of the extent to which you are infected with the cynicism.

                    Millions of people who voted for Trump think politicians are scum. And when the gross character flaws of their guy are pointed out, their reaction is, “He’s no worse than the rest of ’em.” Except that, of course, he IS. Much worse.

                    You pair that with the tendency of people to think the worst of people they disagree with politically — to demonize, delegitimize and even dehumanize them — and you have a poisonous cloud of negativity that makes it impossible for our political system to do what it’s designed to do, which is to enable people with all sorts of views to come together to work out solutions for common challenges the nation faces.

                    Therefore, I think it’s important to acknowledge that politicians overall are no worse than other people — because that’s the truth. We also need to be able to say, “This is an honest man,” even when it’s someone we disagree with.

                    For instance, I think Tom Davis is a fine man. I think a lot of him. I think some of his political ideas border on lunacy, but he’s a good man, and I trust him. Taking it to the national level, I suspect that if I knew Rand Paul, I might think exactly the same of him.

                    Of course, there are people I disagree with whom I think are sleazebags. Ted Cruz comes to mind. And Donald Trump is an ethical, moral, intellectual disaster. But on the whole, even people I disagree with enormously, whose ideas I think are terribly harmful, are by and large just people who see the world differently from the way I do.

                    And I think it’s important to point that out, because almost no one else will. Almost no one else has the nerve, because saying things like that draws contempt all around. I learned early in my career that if you trash somebody, you can always draw a crowd of admirers saying “You tell ’em!” But praise someone, or even point out that a flawed person isn’t quite as bad as people think, and everybody starts to move away from you there on the Group W bench.

                    But I try to do it anyway. And I’m often misunderstood for doing so…

                2. Doug Ross

                  We should hold politicians to a higher standard than the average person. That’s my view. When they fail, they fail everyone who voted for them and all of the people whom they represent.

                  You keep trying to push the narrative that we get bad politicians because people think politicians are scum. That’s not how it works. The opinion of politicians is based on how they perform their jobs. I didn’t start my adult life with an impression that many (most) politicians are ethically challenged and ineffective — I formed that opinion through observation over a long period of time….

                  I never considered Obama to be unethical – that may have been his greatest attribute — scandal free. I just disagreed with his policies and his inability to lead.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Yeah, but what about that freaky portrait?

                    I agree completely with this:

                    We should hold politicians to a higher standard than the average person. That’s my view. When they fail, they fail everyone who voted for them and all of the people whom they represent….

                    I have always believed that, and have lived my life according to that belief.

                    I just worry sometimes that we journalists of the Watergate generation overdid it. We made people think politicians who, say, don’t file a campaign disclosure on time are crooks, and that ALL politicians are crooks. I think we did a lot of damage. And I wish I knew how to undo some of that. Every time some loudmouth at the end of the bar says, “They’re ALL bums!,” I feel a little bit responsible…

                    There are gradations of culpability. This current investigation started with something truly awful: Bobby Harrell really abused power to try to get himself off the hook. That’s the most appalling thing we’ve seen. If Courson can’t account for that money — and I don’t know how he can — that will be bad, but not nearly as Harrell trying to muscle his way out of trouble.

                    And the Quinns — well, it would have been helpful it they had gone to trial, so we could have seen what evidence there really was against them, and then we’d be better able to judge. Instead, we’ve got this mess in which Pascoe says Rick’s the worst of the worst, then lets him plead to a misdemeanor, which normally would make you THINK he really didn’t have him.

                    And letting the father off, when he’s supposed to be the kingpin? Unless that leads to Alan Wilson, who increasingly looks like Pascoe’s Great White Whale, or someone else on that level, it would be natural to wonder what was this all about?…

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                In my line of work, people don’t get arrested; they get fired or demoted.

                It’s because these people are in public service that a) they’re charged with crimes and b) you hear about them. We criminalize breeches of the public trust by public officials, as we should.

                I’ve known people who plagiarized or otherwise broke some code of journalism, but they weren’t charged with crimes because society as a whole doesn’t pass laws making those things against the law. Sometimes these things have been blatant — like the guy who had always wanted to be a sports columnist, and when he got his shot, he had a horrific case of writer’s block. So he started stealing material from other writers, and got caught.

                Then there was the guy who leaked results of a poll the newspaper had conducted to a gubernatorial candidate. Open and shut case, right? Well, yeah — although he offered an excuse that was stupid, but not entirely unbelievable. We had a poll coming out in Sunday’s paper. This editor thought the result was kind of startling, and was worried about whether it was accurate. He called a guy he knew with one of the campaigns on Saturday to ask, off -the-record, whether their internal polling was showing the same thing. Of course, the candidate, at a rally that night, told the crowd that the paper would have a poll in the morning showing him in the lead.

                Young folks today, used to things being online before they’re in print, it find it hard to understand, but that was a HUGE ethical breech that made the paper look really bad — one candidate having that information while his opponent did not. So this guy lost his position as political editor. I forget whether he was fired altogether, but he wasn’t there long after, in any event.

                Then there was the guy I fired when he suppressed news about himself. I was adamant that he had to go, immediately — even though he THOUGHT he had permission from the publisher to do what he did (VERY messy situation, resulting from this guy confessing his situation to the publisher and the publisher failing to tell me about it). I felt sorry for the guy. It was a sad case. And I wasn’t outraged when the publisher (knowing it was partly his fault) gave the guy a menial job in the advertising department. The guy had to eat. Just as long as he wasn’t working in my newsroom.

                I don’t think of any of those guys as “crooks” or bad people. But they were bad journalists to do what they did, and reflected badly on the rest of us. So they were punished, appropriately…

  2. Richard

    In the WIS exclusive interview today Rick is set on clearing his name. It reminded me of OJ going out to find the real killer. I expect about as much work will be done by Rick.

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