Suspended Daniel Island state representative Jim Merrill went before the bond court judge today to ask for bond on his ethics charges.
Solicitor David Pascoe told the judge he can prove Merrill violated the law, including two counts of misconduct in office and 28 ethics violations. He said Merrill also laundered money from his company into his brother’s company and back. State representative Jim Merrill said very little in court as his attorneys, including fellow representative Leon Stavrinakis asked the judge to give their client bond. They say Merrill denies doing anything illegal.
The judge said the law only allows him to deny Bond if he believes Merrill is a threat to the public, or if he believes Merrill is a flight risk. He does not believe he is either of those. The judge gave Merrill a $146,000 PR Bond.
John Crangle is an advocate for ethics reform and the executive director of Common Cause. He says Merrill’s ethics case is different from former Speaker Bobby Harrell’s ethics case. “In a single appearance, Harrell was indicted, pleaded guilty and was sentenced all over and done with in one hour. Here it appears Merrill is going to fight the charges, so this thing could drag out for a number of weeks.”
Crangle says he believes 2-3 more legislators could be charged in the future, but he would not say who. “The thing that’s really a question in my mind is whether people that I don’t suspect of wrongdoing are implicated too. That’s what happened in operation lost trust. I thought there were four or five crooks in the house. I didn’t realize there were 17.”
Crangle also sent a letter on behalf of Common Cause to Governor Haley asking her to consider stepping down so Henry McMaster can begin working full time on ethics reform.
Merrill faces up to 66 years in prison and $146,000 in fines if convicted.