September 1, 2015

Jury finds ex-SC State trustee guilty on 29 counts

Pinson outside the federal courthouse in Columbia last January (FILE)

Pinson outside the federal courthouse in Columbia last January (FILE)

A federal jury ended more than three days of deliberations Thursday, finding former SC State University board of trustees chairman Jonathan Pinson guilty of 29 counts in a public corruption trial.

Pinson was convicted of racketeering, theft of government stimulus funds, and dozens of other charges following the two-week trial. The jury found him not guilty of 16 counts.

The jury also found Pinson’s business partner Eric Robinson not guilty on all seven counts.

The jury had deliberated since Monday afternoon, but ran into a minor problem Wednesday night. That’s when one of the jurors informed Judge David Norton that they could not continue serving after this week because of an internship that begins July 7. Norton had said he would allow the deliberations to continue with just 11 jurors next week, but the group was able to return its verdict a little after 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Pinson will be sentenced at a later date.

Prosecutors argued that the former chairman used his position to push for a land deal with a Florida developer so he could get a Porsche SUV from that developer as a thank-you gift. Investigators also say Pinson skimmed money from a low-income Columbia housing project his firm was building and a struggling diaper factory in Marion County.

Federal prosecutors presented hours of phone wiretaps and several other witnesses who had already pleaded guilty to their part in the scheme, including the Florida developer Richard Zahn, former SC State University general counsel Ed Givens, and ex-SC State police chief Michael Bartley.

Robinson owned We Entertainment, which had been accused of arranging for Pinson to receive $2,000 and a share of the profits in exchange for landing a contract to organize the 2011 SC State homecoming concert. Robinson’s attorney Shaun Kent told reporters after Thursday’s verdict that his client had done nothing wrong.

“Unfortunately, he’s one of the few people who’s willing to stand up to the United States of America,” Kent said. “And he stood up to the bully and punched the bully in his face. So I’m proud of him.”

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