A former South Carolina State University trustee charged in a public corruption investigation is out on bond after pleading not guilty in federal court Tuesday.
Jonathan Pinson, the former chairman of the S.C. State board, is accused of taking money or kickbacks in exchange for arranging business deals that involved the university. Prosecutors claim that he tried to get the school to buy land from a Florida developer in exchange for a Porsche SUV.
Pinson was arraigned on dozens of new charges Tuesday. He is accused of lying to law enforcement, paying himself money that should have gone to contractors on a government-funded project, and submitting false paperwork to federal agencies in order to get more money.
Pinson entered a not guilty plea Tuesday afternoon on charges of racketeering and wire fraud. He was then released on bond. The trial is now set to begin on March 24
Greenville businessman Eric Robinson also faces charges, with prosecutors saying he conspired to give Pinson kickbacks in exchange for guaranteeing that Robinson’s entertainment company would be used to promote a South Carolina State homecoming concert. On top of that, Pinson and Robinson are also accused of taking money from the Columbia Housing Authority that was meant for the development of the Village at River’s Edge public housing development.
Pinson’s attorney said the ex-chairman is innocent and a victim to the corrupt activities of his former partners. Columbia attorney Jim Griffin claimed fellow defendants lied to federal investigators in order to receive lighter sentences. Griffin has also sought to have some evidence tossed out of the trial, arguing federal investigators did not properly obtain wiretaps when they recorded numerous phone calls between Pinson and other admitted members of the conspiracy.
Five other people have already pleaded guilty in connection with this investigation.