Ex-S.C. State board chair Pinson wants racketeering charge, wiretap evidence thrown out
Former South Carolina State University board Chairman Jonathan Pinson has asked a judge to dismiss a federal racketeering charge against him and throw out evidence investigators obtained in the corruption case through wiretaps on his cellphone.
Pinson’s attorney, James Griffin, has filed a motion arguing that the racketeering count should be dropped for lack of evidence. He contends the 52-count indictment in which the Greenville businessman is named doesn’t support allegations of an ongoing pattern of organized crime.
Griffin also argues that federal investigators overstepped their bounds in gathering evidence against Pinson through court-authorized wiretaps.
He contends investigators used false information to obtain permission for the wiretap and failed to comply with the order that was granted. His motion states that agents listened in on some calls longer than allowed and intercepted calls that were protected by attorney-client privilege.
Griffin wants the court to toss out all evidence gathered through the wiretaps based on these alleged violations. He declined to elaborate on his motions when he was contacted Monday.
Federal prosecutors have not filed a response to Griffin’s motions, and officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined Monday to comment on the matter.
Pinson and Eric Robinson, a close friend and business partner, were implicated earlier this year in connection with an ongoing federal corruption probe at the Orangeburg college. An expanded indictment unsealed this month adds a host of additional charges, including mail and wire fraud, money laundering, extortion and bribery. Pinson faces 51 counts in the latest indictment; Robinson, 11.
The two men are scheduled to be arraigned on those charges Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Columbia.
Prosecutors allege Pinson used his position as chairman of S.C. State’s governing board to line his pockets with kickbacks and other ill-gotten rewards as he and business partners worked a series of shady deals from Florida to the Palmetto State.
The document accuses Pinson of betraying his alma mater by using his position on the board to steer contracts to friends, shake down associates for kickbacks and gifts and promote his business interests elsewhere.
The 69-page indictment alleges that Pinson headed a criminal enterprise that included two other S.C. State officials, a trio of businessmen and four corporations in which Pinson was a principal. The enterprise operated in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and had its hands in a housing complex, a diaper plant and other endeavors.
Along the way, Pinson and others allegedly doled out bribes, illegally pocketed federal grant money, misused loans and investments and generally gamed the system to enrich themselves, the indictment states.
Five others, including former university board member Lancelot Wright, 47, and Michael Bartley, 48, the school’s former police chief, have already pleaded guilty in the case.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.