by Sam Spence
Until about 7 P.M. this evening, state officials including the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division refused to release the mugshots of indicted House speaker Bobby Harrell, who is facing criminal charges that he violated state ethics laws.
Harrell was indicted early last month by a Richland County grand jury, but wasn't arraigned on the nine charges he faces until Monday, when a state circuit judge set an $18,000 bond and limited the out-of-state travel of the Charleston representative, one of the state's most powerful political leaders. Per state law, Harrell was suspended from office soon after the charges were filed on September 9.
After the arraignment hearing, Harrell was taken to a small chamber outside the Richland County courtroom where he was formally booked, fingerprinted, and had photos taken. SLED spokesperson Thom Berry repeatedly told the City Paper and other S.C. newspapers that the mugshots were not part of a county booking record and were to be kept on file with the agency until the case was closed.
The Post and Courier's Schuyler Kropf posted the photos a little before 7 P.M. tonight. The shots were provided by First District Solicitor David Pascoe's office, which took over the Harrell investigation after Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson transferred the case to the Democratic solicitor earlier this summer, according to a State Supreme Court filing made public recently, first reported by The Nerve.
S.C. Press Association attorney Jay Bender told the P&C that he could not think of a legitimate reason why the photos wouldn't be released, questioning whether Harrell received preferential treatment.
As his House colleagues jockey to replace him presiding over the state House of Representatives, Harrell remains on the ballot against Democratic challenger Mary Tinkler in the November 4 general election.