COLUMBIA, SC — Jonathon Pinson and his co-defendant Eric Robinson will be arraigned on Tuesday in Columbia on their latest criminal charges, which include alleged wrongdoing at Columbias Village at Rivers Edge housing project.
Their court appearance, the first since the duo was freshly indicted Nov. 7, will be at 10 a.m. at the Matthew J. Perry Jr. federal courthouse.
Magistrate Judge Paige Gossett will preside. An arraignment is when the formal charge is read to the defendant, who then usually enters a plea.
Pinsons attorney, Jim Griffin of Columbia, filed a lengthy motion Friday to suppress evidence gathered by FBI judge-approved wiretaps in the case.
More than a dozen wiretaps were repeatedly referred to in a 69-page indictment unveiled Nov. 7. Information gleaned from those wiretaps during a two-year investigation is essential to the governments case.
One piece of evidence, called Exhibit 3, concerns city of Columbia City Councils discussions re: The Village at Rivers Edge, according to a non-sealed but brief description of that evidence in a motion Griffin filed Friday.
Other evidence now under seal is described as a chart containing information derived from wiretap and designated confidential by the government, according to Griffins motion.
In his filing, Griffin gave numerous reasons why the governments wire-tapping evidence should be suppressed, including that it contains false information and that proper wiretapping procedures werent followed. To suppress evidence means that the judge would throw it out of the case and not allow a jury to hear it.
The U.S. attorneys office in Columbia has not filed a response to Griffins motion.
A Dec. 18 hearing has been set in Charleston before U.S. Judge David Norton. Norton will rule on whether any of the governments wiretap evidence should be suppressed.
Ironically, the wiretaps could be played in open court during that hearing.
The indictment unveiled Nov. 7 charges Pinson, 43, with 51 counts of various kinds of fraud and illegal activities and Robinson, 43, with 11 counts.
It alleges that Pinson former chairman of S.C. State Universitys board of trustees and Robinson used their political and personal connections and business expertise to commit a host of white collar crimes.
These alleged crimes include money laundering through shell corporations, bribes, kickbacks (which the accused allegedly called love offerings), racketeering, extortion and the use of public money and bank loans for illegal purposes.
That indictment had numerous references to Columbia and the public-private Village at Rivers Edge development.
According to the indictment and federal officials, Pinson gave a former Columbia city employee identified in the indictment only as Person A a $5,000 check for help with respect to the Village at Rivers Edge project.
Pinson devised an illegal scheme to accept wire transfers of public money from the Columbia Housing Authority that were supposed to go toward building 60 public housing units at the Village at Rivers Edge, according to the indictment. Pinson then engaged in skimming by illegally keeping a portion of each of the various wire transfers for his own personal use, the indictment said.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344