Former S.C. State trustee Jonathan Pinson

Pretrial motions and jury selection will begin this week in the federal corruption trial against South Carolina State University’s former board chairman and a co-defendant. The trial will begin next week.

The pretrial conference for former chairman Jonathan Pinson and Greenville businessman Eric Robinson will begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Matthew J. Perry Jr. Courthouse in Columbia.

“The purpose of a pretrial conference is to finalize decisions on any pending motions or any other trial-related issues,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Wicker said, declining comment on what may transpire at the upcoming conference. “Ideally, what it does enable ... is to have all decisions that can be made pretrial made without the trial being unduly interrupted.”

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin Thursday morning, with the trial scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday, June 16.

Federal officials allege Pinson conspired to receive kickbacks from Eric Robinson, whose entertainment company received a contract for South Carolina State University’s 2011 homecoming concert.

Federal prosecutors have also accused Robinson of conspiring to get kickbacks for Pinson in exchange for his company being used to promote the homecoming concert. Robinson is also accused of racketeering and wire fraud relating to the deal setting up that same performance.

Pinson has also been charged with conspiracy and extortion in an alleged scheme to use his influence on the university’s board of trustees in a land deal in exchange for a Porsche.

In November 2013, Pinson was also charged with racketeering and wire fraud.

Authorities claim Pinson lied to law enforcement during the investigation, paid himself money that should have gone to contractors on a government-funded public housing project and submitted false federal paperwork to get more money.

Federal authorities list Pinson as an investor on projects named in the indictment of another former S.C. State board member, Lance Wright. Those projects include a Marion County development and a Columbia housing project funded in part by federal stimulus money.

Prosecutors say Pinson helped Village at River’s Edge -- his company that was developing the Columbia property -- get more than $500,000 from the Columbia Housing Authority. They say he used those funds to pay himself thousands of dollars and offered thousands more to people who helped him secure other loans.

Prosecutors also said Pinson partnered with the owner of a diaper factory that relocated to Marion County.

Pinson and other members of the enterprise submitted falsified invoices and illegally billed Marion County, the prosecutors claim. The enterprise then used the factory to launder government funds, according to the indictment.

Pinson and Robinson have both pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

Six individuals have pleaded guilty in connection with the federal corruption probe. They are:

Michael Bartley, the former S.C. State chief of police, pleaded guilty to conspiracy for trying to arrange for the university’s purchase of the Sportsman’s Retreat property in Orangeburg County in exchange for approximately $30,000 in cash and an all-terrain vehicle.

Richard Zahn, a Florida developer and Orangeburg County resort property owner, pleaded to conspiracy to defraud the federal government. Zahn owned Sportsman’s Retreat, a 121-acre property located about 10 miles from the Orangeburg campus.

Lance Wright, who served on the S.C. State board, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and conspiracy. Wright used loans intended to fund certain projects for personal reasons, including giving $5,000 to an employee of the city of Columbia, where he was developing a 60-unit, public housing complex.

Phillip Mims, co-investor with Wright, also pleaded guilty to bank fraud and conspiracy.

Robert A. Williams, co-investor with Wright, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and conspiracy.

Edwin Givens, former S.C. State general counsel, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for knowing of a kickback scheme involving the 2011 homecoming concert and not alerting law enforcement.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551.

Contact the writer: 803-533-5551


Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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