Pinson trial: A sampling of statements made in court

July 3, 2014 

Here is a selection of statements made in court during the two-week-long federal public corruption trial of Greenville businessmen Jonathan Pinson and Eric Robinson.


“This is my (expletive) city.”

Jonathan Pinson referring to Columbia during a recorded Aug. 29, 2011, telephone conversation with Ed Givens, then S.C. State University’s chief attorney


“You can’t use your influence with politicians to line your pockets.”

Lead federal prosecutor Nancy Wicker during closing arguments to the jury


“In lieu of a fee, he would prefer a Porsche Cayenne. You tell me what color.”

Richard Zahn’s testimony about his deal with Pinson, then-chairman of S.C. State University’s board of trustees, in exchange for Pinson’s help in selling Zahn’s resort-style property, known as Sporstman’s Retreat, to the university


“I had been told they were coming to ask me questions about the Village.”

Jonathan Pinson to Florida developer Richard Zahn when agents showed up Nov. 14, 2011, to question Pinson the first time


“The government just picks and chooses what they want you to hear. They’re picking out the worst of Jonathan.”

Pinson’s defense attorney Jim Griffin about prosecutors playing the jury 118 telephone conversations from among 15,000 that were intercepted by the FBI


“You’ve got 118 examples of these guys talking when they think nobody’s listening.”

Prosecutor J.D. Rowell, referring to the number OF Pinson’s recorded telephone conversations that were played during the trial


“They’re absolute idiots in the tapes. Let’s be honest about that.”

Robinson’s defense lawyer, Shaun Kent about the defendants’ inflated sense of their influence, deals they hatched and their profanity-filled telephone conversations


“If the government is listening to all my calls, there are probably things that can be misconstrued.”

Pinson defense attorney Jim Griffin in explaining excerpts played in court from conversations recorded by the FBI


“They stole from anybody they could. They abused the trust that Jonathan Pinson was supposed to take good care of.”

Federal prosecutor J.D. Rowell during closing arguments to the jury


“Basically, they said Eric Robinson is the great and powerful Oz. Eric Robinson is responsible for global warming.”

Robinson’s defense attorney, Shaun Kent, mocking the government’s contention that the defendant was a key to the schemes alleged in the trial


“Mike, when the property sells, I’ll compensate your for your time and effort. It’s a gentlemen’s agreement. He said he would give me $30,000 and when taxes were taken out, I’d get about $22,000.”

Michael Bartley, ex-chief of police for S.C. State, testifying what Zahn told him about their kickback agreement if the university bought Zahn’s Sportsman’s Retreat property for $2.8 million


“This is racketeering at its best. They got in a room around drinks and said, ‘Let’s steal from Marion County.’ ”

Prosecutor J.D. Rowell about the scheme to skim public money for moving a diaper-making plant from Atlanta to Mullins in Marion County


“Sometimes in business, you got to grease that skid or people don’t want to work with you no more.”

Pinson to co-defendant Eric Robinson regarding paying S.C. State’s chief lawyer for his role in helping to book Robinson’s concert promotion company for the 2011 homecoming concert. The Aug. 25, 2011 conversation was recorded by the FBI


“He doesn’t care about South Carolina State. He cares about his pocketbook, his wallet.”

Prosecutor J.D. Rowell about Pinson misusing his role as chairman of the university board to cut private deals that benefitted him or co-defendant Eric Robinson


“The old saying, ‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul’ – that’s what we were doing.”

Co-defendant turned government witness Phil Mims testifying about how the plotters borrowed money and moved it around in bank accounts to bolster their money-making schemes


“When the prosecution doesn’t call a witness, that’s a reason to doubt.”

Pinson’s attorney, Jim Griffin, telling jurors about the government’s decision to not call co-defendant Lance Wright or former S.C. State president George Cooper


“Somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,000 to $8,000. It could have been more because there was money involved with the females.”

Florida developer Richard Zahn testifying about his expenses in wining and dining Pinson, two S.C. State officials and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin in Orlando. The Dec. 10, 2010, trip included Zahn paying two women who worked at a strip club $500 each to ride back to the hotel where the visitors were staying at Zahn’s expense.


“At the end of the day, straightforward truthfulness is the most powerful thing you’ve got going for you.”

Richard Zahn’s testimony about when Pinson told him the FBI showed up to interview Pinson. Zahn, now a prosecution witness, admitted on the stand that he lied to the FBI at first, too.


Clif LeBlanc compiled.

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