COLUMBIA, S.C., JAN. 4 -- The state House's second-ranking lawmaker and a highway commissioner were indicted today 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 (D-Bennettsville) on charges of racketeering, bribery, witness tampering and extortion in extracting thousands of dollars from lobbyists. He immediately resigned the speaker's post and under House rules will be suspended as a state House member until the indictment is resolved.
State Highway Commissioner Wade "Ronnie" Crow was indicted for allegedly helping Rogers obtain one of the payments. Crow is one of 20 state highway commissioners, and it was unclear how the indictment will affect his state role.
Neither Rogers nor Crow would comment on the indictments.
Rogers was accused under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the Hobbs Act, which forbids public officials from taking bribes. He allegedly extorted $28,300 from three lobbyists, one of whom was an undercover informant. Rogers also allegedly tried to influence the testimony of people assisting federal authorities.
Crow is a former president of the state Thoroughbred Association, which supported a parimutuel betting bill. Crow allegedly helped Rogers extort a bribe in exchange for Rogers's support of the bill.
If convicted on all counts, Rogers could be sentenced to 180 years in prison and fined $2.5 million. Crow faces 20 years and fines of $250,000.