COLUMBIA, SC — The former attorney and chief of staff for S.C. State University was suspended Wednesday from practicing law.
The state Supreme Court issued an order suspending the law license of Ed Givens, 50, until further notice by the justices.
His suspension also bans Givens from any financial dealings with any of his legal accounts.
Givens pleaded guilty May 13 in federal court to misprision of a felony, which means he admitted knowing about illegal activity – in this case, kickbacks -- participating in it and lying to cover it up.
Givens was part of a scheme to get illegal payments for the university’s 2011 homecoming concert. The offense to which he pleaded guilty is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors have said that Givens and was part of a plan to solicit and receive kickbacks through mid-January 2012. Givens also “took affirmative steps” to conceal the scheme from federal law enforcement agents investigating the case, prosecutors say.
During his guilty plea in a Charleston courtroom, Givens’ defense team told Judge David Norton that Givens was once a rising star in South Carolina’s legal circles. But in moments of weakness, Givens gave in to the wishes of powerful people around him and became part of a kickback scheme, the defense said.
During the investigation by the FBI and other federal agencies, Givens was recorded having phone conversations with then-S.C. State board chairman Jonathan Pinson, who became the primary target of the investigation.
In one secretly recorded conversation, FBI agents learned that Givens had agreed to accept $2,000 for his part in the scheme, assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Wicker told the judge.
Givens only received $500 instead of $2,000 because the scheme didn’t produce as much profit as the schemers believed it would, Wicker said. The kickback was a reward for Givens’ role in getting university officials to choose a promotion company to oversee a homecoming concert, she said.
Givens kept that money for several days before donating it to an S.C. State educational foundation, the prosecutor said.
Later, when Givens was interviewed by the FBI, he denied knowledge of the matter, Wicker said. Givens did not know then about the wiretaps that captured the phone calls.
Givens’ guilty plea was the sixth in an ongoing series of admissions connected to a multi-year federal investigation into suspected public corruption at the Orangeburg university.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.