The second-ranking lawmaker in the South Carolina House and a highway commissioner were indicted Friday on federal corruption charges, bringing to 13 the number of people accused in an investigation of vote-selling.
A federal grand jury indicted House Speaker Pro Tem Jack Rogers on charges of racketeering, bribery, witness tampering and extortion in extracting thousands of dollars from lobbyists.
State Highway Commissioner Wade (Ronnie) Crow was accused of helping Rogers obtain one of the payments.
Rogers, a 53-year-old Democrat from Bennettsville, resigned as speaker pro tem after the 10-count indictment was issued. Although still a lawmaker, rules required his suspension as a House member until the indictment is resolved.
“The indictment alleges that Rogers used his position as a representative and speaker pro tem to extort money for his own personal gain,” U.S. Atty. Bart Daniel said.
Rogers referred questions to his attorney, Thomas Simpson, who did not return telephone calls to his office Friday.
Rogers’ name often appeared in reports about the FBI investigation, but he was reelected speaker pro tem last month. “I feel I have done nothing wrong,” Rogers told the House at the time.
Crow, 52, represents a four-county district on the 20-member state highway commission. It was not immediately known how the indictment would affect his job status.
Crucial to the FBI probe, called Operation Lost Trust, was the use of lobbyist and former lawmaker Ron Cobb as an undercover informant. Cobb offered lawmakers cash for their support of a bill to allow parimutuel betting on horse and dog races.
The cash exchanges were recorded on videotape and became evidence.
Rogers was accused under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and Hobbs Act, which forbids public officials from taking bribes.
If convicted on all counts, Rogers faces 180 years in prison and $2.5 million in fines. Crow could receive 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Up to now, 13 people have been charged in the investigation. Nine lawmakers were indicted either for accepting cash bribes or conspiring to accept bribes. Another legislator and a lobbyist were charged with drug possession.
Among those indicted, seven have pleaded guilty and one was convicted in a trial. The remaining three, all state representatives, go on trial this month.