Justices: Prosecutor can investigate House speaker Bobby Harrell

Bobby Harrell

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina's highest court says that the state's top prosecutor has the authority to investigate House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

The state Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling Wednesday that Attorney General Alan Wilson properly empaneled a state grand jury to consider allegations the powerful Charleston Republican abused his power for personal benefit.

Wilson's office was appealing a trial judge's order halting that investigation into Harrell. A circuit judge ruled earlier this year that Wilson needed approval from a legislative ethics panel before pursuing such a case.

Harrell's attorneys also argued Wilson should be removed from the case due to a conflict. Justices said the lower court must now rule on that matter.

Spokesmen for Harrell and Wilson did not immediately comment on the ruling.