Former S.C. State Senator Pleads Guilty In Bribery Case
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A former state senator who admits taking cash for his support of a pari- mutuel betting bill today become the third South Carolina legislator to plead guilty to bribery charges stemming from a federal probe.
Rick Lee entered his guilty plea before a federal judge this morning, as he had said he would last month.
Lee, a Republican from Boiling Springs, resigned his seat two weeks ago after being indicted on charges he had violated the Hobbs Act, a federal law banning acceptance of money or gifts in return for votes or favors.
The 37-year-old Lee is one of five legislators accused of trading their votes for cash. Two of them, former Reps. Robert Brown, D-Marion, and Daniel Winstead, R-Charleston, pleaded guilty last week. They are awaiting sentencing.
Reps. Robert Kohn, R-Charleston, and Rep. Luther Taylor, D-Columbia, have pleaded innocent and are suspended from the House pending the resolution of the charges. Kohn has withdrawn from his re-election bid.
Lee’s indictment accused him of agreeing to support, for $2,000, a bill that would have allowed citizens to vote on whether to permit betting on horses and greyhounds in South Carolina. The bill was eventually approved in the Senate Judiciary Committee this spring but was never acted upon by the full Senate.
Lee faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
When Lee resigned Aug. 27, he admitted taking money but called his role in the scandal ″minor.″ Lee’s seat will be filled by a special election in early January.
The indictments stemmed from a 16-month investigation of corruption at the Statehouse and more indictments may follow, federal authorities have said.
The FBI sting, code-named ″Operation Lost Trust,″ employed a former House member-turned-lobbyist, Ron Cobb, and an undercover FBI agent who went by the name Joe Williams.