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Courson, Edge sentenced as Statehouse corruption probe ends

The final two former South Carolina lawmakers charged in a nearly eight-year investigation into corruption at the Statehouse have avoided time behind bars.

Former Sen. John Courson was ordered Thursday to serve 100 hours of community service and once he finishes, his probation will end, The State newspape r reported.

The Columbia Republican pleaded guilty in 2018 to taking $159,000 from his campaign account and using for personal expenses on the advice of a prominent Republican political consultant at the center of the corruption investigation.

Former Rep. Tracy Edge was ordered to pay a $500 fine after he pleaded guilty to failing to fully report his campaign finances. The Myrtle Beach Republican chose the fine over six months in prison.

The consultant at the middle of the investigation, Richard Quinn Sr., was sentenced to 18 months of home detention on April 19.

Judge Carmen Mullen, who also sentenced Edge and Courson, agreed Quinn can leave the house to go to his office, to church, to see his doctors and lawyers or for special events with his grandchildren.

Prosecutors said Quinn's political consulting firm was paid illegal fees from individual and corporate lobbyists and also paid lawmakers illegal salaries to influence legislation.

The corruption probe began in 2014 as an investigation into ex-House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who pleaded guilty to spending campaign money on personal expenses. He was sentenced to probation.

Quinn's son and onetime state Rep. Richard Quinn Jr. also pleaded guilty and received probation for taking $4 million from lobbyists and doing their bidding for the Quinns' consulting business.

Former state Rep. Jim Harrison was sent to prison for 18 months for lying during the investigation, while ex-Rep. Jim Merrill was sentenced to probation.

All are Republicans.

Courson, 78, said he trusted Richard Quinn Sr. when the consultant told him it was OK to convert his campaign money for personal use. The former Marine Corps reservist said he thinks about how he hurt his reputation and his family every day,

"The ethos of the United States Marine Corps is honor, courage, commitment," he said. "I still live by that."

Edge, 56, said the past eight years since the investigation started have been filled with pain and anxiety."

"I'm very sorry for any failures on my part in this case and deeply regret them," Edge said.

Both prosecutors and the judge praised Courson and Edge for cooperating with the investigation.

At the end of its service, the state grand jury looking into the corruption released a 270-page report detailing the often-blurry line between political consultants, lobbyists and powerful businesses and state agencies in South Carolina.

Major hospital company Palmetto Health, AT&T, the University of South Carolina, utility SCANA and a trial lawyers association called the South Carolina Association for Justice paid more than $350,000 in fines for using Quinn's firm to lobby on their behalf without disclosing it publicly.