Toal was wrong about Wilson and the press release

Cindi Scoppe had another strong column today relating to the Harrell-Wilson case. Basically, it was about how creepily accurate the rumor mill has been about how judges would rule on the case thus far, starting with predictions that Casey Manning would come up with the bizarre notion that the attorney general lacked the authority to prosecute the speaker.

It ends with the current rumor, which is that the court will overturn Judge Manning’s ruling, but “direct the judge to decide whether Mr. Wilson should be replaced with another prosecutor and strongly suggest that he should be.”

Let’s hope the rumor mill is wrong on this one, because it would be bad for South Carolina to have the attorney general undermined in his effort to treat the speaker like any other citizen. It would mean victory for the speaker, whose goal all along has been to kick Wilson off the case.

Some of the speculation may arise from Chief Justice Jean Toal’s concern about the “unprecedented” press release that Wilson put out announcing that he was asking a grand jury to consider the Harrell case.

The thing is, the chief justice is wrong about the release being unprecedented, or even unusual:

We have heard for weeks that the chief justice was fixated on the news release that Mr. Wilson sent out in January announcing that he was referring the case to the Grand Jury. And on Tuesday Ms. Toal brought that up and returned to it multiple times, going so far as to call it “unprecedented” and say she had “never heard of having a news release to announce you’re going to submit something to the Grand Jury, ever.” So that rumor appears to have been correct as well.

That point merits a little more explanation, particularly because it plays into the final piece of speculation, which has not yet played out. Justice Toal might never have noticed such a thing, but it is by no means unprecedented. I still have the news release Mr. Wilson sent out in 2011 announcing he was asking the Grand Jury to investigate then-Lt. Gov. Ken Ard. When I asked the attorney general’s office on Wednesday about similar news releases, I was provided with three others, involving S.C. State University and two high-profile securities fraud investigations. I also was sent six news articles in which the attorney general’s office confirmed that other high-profile cases had been referred to the Grand Jury.

I’m told from previous administrations that the main goal of these news releases is to get reporters to stop hounding the office for information, by making it clear that no more comment can be made….

If any of the momentum toward removing Wilson arises from concern over the press release, I hope the justices will read, and consider, that section of Cindi’s column before ruling.

10 thoughts on “Toal was wrong about Wilson and the press release

  1. Lynn T

    “Let’s hope the rumor mill is wrong on this one, because it would be bad for South Carolina to have the attorney general undermined in his effort to treat the speaker like any other citizen.”

    Yes. Absolutely right.

  2. Doug Ross

    The rumor mill also says that Toal will help Harrelll out in return for his support for her re-election. That seems very plausible.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That does not sound at all plausible to me.

      But the fact that judges are completely dependent on legislators for their posts DOES undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary. Jean Toal could recuse herself, but that would do nothing to help the fact that ALL of the justices are dependent on legislators’ good will for their posts.

      We should change the system, to something in which both the executive and the legislative branches have equal say in the selection of judges…

  3. Mark Stewart

    Then, really, we are lucky that the Supreme Court would decide to follow the law even as they highlight how deeply corrupted the Judicial-Legislative axis truly is. There is no practical way that Justices beholden to the Speaker of the House could ever rule that the Legislature is a body without special privilege.

    As with all corruption, however, the game requires two to play. If the “victim” doesn’t acquiesce to the bully, then there is no game. So it is always possible for the Supreme Court to finally cast off the yoke of the Legislature that it has elected to be shackled under for centuries and vote for not only the law but also for good governance. I just don’t think they have the cojones to do so. Still, if there were ever a moment for the Court to rise to the occasion, this would appear to be the time to assert judicial independence.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    So we have two willfully counterfactual judges: Manning who claimed there were no allegations of criminal behavior, and Toal who claimed there was something extremely unusual, and impliedly untoward, about the AG’s press release. Seeing a pattern?
    How apparently intelligent, skilled jurists can make such assertions with a straight face amazes me.
    Shame, shame, shame

  5. Lynn T

    Kathryn, counterfactual is not a problem. This is the same court that ruled that odors have no physical reality, can’t be touched, and therefore the Lee County landfill smell isn’t trespass. I think all of us who made it through school know that odors are how we perceive airborne chemical compounds. They are important enough to us that evolution has equipped us with a very sensitive way of perceiving these very dispersed molecules. So, at what point are the molecules close enough together to be physically real, rather than — what? Messages from the spirit world?

      1. Silence

        If the landfill is properly zoned, the odours in question would be a private nuisance. I smell a lawsuit…

      2. Lynn T

        That explanation I could buy — that legal precedent simply treats odors as a different kind of violation. That, however, is quite different from the statement in the decision.


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