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Politics

SC House Speaker Pleads Guilty To Campaign Finance Violations, Resigns

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Suspended South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell has pleaded guilty to six campaign finance violations and agreed to resign from office. 

Harrell accepted a plea deal Thursday that lets him avoid jail time. Instead, he will have six years in prison suspended as long as he completes three years of probation. He was also fined $30,000, ordered to turn over about $10,000 remaining from his campaign account to the state and will pay $93,000 to South Carolina's general fund. 

Harrell also agreed to not run for office for at least three years. He told the judge he was glad to bring a hard two years for his family to a close. 

In a statement released Thursday morning Harrell said, "I have agreed to this today to end what has been a two year nightmare. This has been incredibly hard on my family and me, and it is time for it to end. We have a fundamental disagreement over the proper use of a campaign account to fly a private aircraft to conduct state and campaign business, but to continue to fight this would have taken at least another year, possibly two."

The plea deal concludes a long legal battle that included the South Carolina Attorney General and the state Supreme Court. Harrell's attorneys contended the attorney general didn't have the authority to prosecute the House Speaker – and a judge ruled in their favor.

The state Supreme Court threw out that decision. The attorney general later passed the case to a special prosecutor, who brought the charges and secured the plea deal.

Speaker Harrell was indicted in September on charges saying that from 2009 through 2013 he knowingly committed official misconduct, fraud or corruption to obtain personal profit.