SC State University Chairman’s Federal Kickback Trial Delayed

kickbackFormer Board Chairman for SC State University Sees Another Delay In Federal Kickback Trial

The federal kickback trial for the former board chairman for South Carolina State University should have started this month, October, but has instead been set back again to January 2014.

US Judge David Norton agreed to the continuance motion put forth by Jonathon Pinson and his codefendant, Greenville-area businessman Eric Robinson. The defendants’ attorney said they needed additional time to review “voluminous discovery” and prepare for the trial.

The eight-page federal kickback indictment was unsealed on Wednesday, September 25th. Federal prosecutors accuse Pinson and Robinson of violating the Hobbs Act, which prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion which affects interstate commerce.

Recently, a great deal of evidence was turned over to the attorneys in the federal kickback trial, including hours of wiretaps of Pinson’s cell phone, which were court-authorized. There are also years of Pinson’s and Robinson’s tax returns to sift through, according to the defendants’ attorneys.

“We have over five months’ of electronic eavesdropping and transcripts to review,” said Pinson’s attorney, Jim Griffin of Columbia.

“We also intend to present a motion to the court in November asking the court to consider whether information obtained from this eavesdropping is able to be used at trial,” Griffin said.

Current estimates suggest the trial will last up to a month. There have already been several pre-trial proceedings, both in Columbia and Charleston.

The prosecution made a motion on Friday that a broader jury selection is needed “given the nature of the allegations in this case, the former positions of the defendants and the amount of publicity generated by this case.” Judge Norton has not yet ruled on this request.

The Story Behind the Federal Kickback Charges

Pinson was charged in January 2013 with federal kickback charges, along with friend and alleged co-conspirator Eric Robinson. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the federal kickback charges. Pinson even recently filed with the court to have the identities of his informants revealed.

According to prosecutors, between 2009 and 2011, Pinson, along with “close personal friend” Eric Robinson, accepted items of value in exchange for using his official position to help those who bribed him. This is a violation of the Hobbs Act, which prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce. The statute is frequently cited in cases involving public corruption, such as this case.

In mid-January, former Chief of Police Michael Bartley admitted to his role in the plot. He allegedly agreed to promote the purchase of the Sportsman’s Retreat, and in return would receive $30,000 and an All-Terrain Vehicle.

Bartley was one of eight SCSU staff members fired this time last year because of his connection to the scheme, which the university said it was investigating, but did not go into detail.

In March of this year, federal investigators looking into the federal kickback charges said they would indict Pinson on more charges in April, but no new indictments were issued.

Federal Criminal Charges and Kickback Defense in South Carolina

Kickbacks refer to a form of negotiated bribery in which one returns part of the purchase price of an item to a buyer or buyer’s representative with the intent of inducing a purchase or improperly influencing purchases in the future.

Under federal law kickbacks involving government officials or public funds provided by the government are illegal.

Not all kickbacks are considered illegal. If a kickback does not specifically violate the federal or state law, the kickback may be considered normal, legal and tax deductible. Tax deductibility is prohibited by an official, employee of the federal government or an official or employee of a foreign government.

If you or your company has been accused of kickbacks, a South Carolina federal criminal defense attorney at the Strom Law Firm, LLC can help. 
With long standing experience with both state and federal cases, we know what it takes to aggressively defend you. Call a South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney at the Strom Law Firm today for a free consultation. 803.252.4800.