Government rests case, defense offers no witnesses in Pinson tri - - Columbia, South Carolina

Government rests case, defense offers no witnesses in Pinson trial


Jonathan Pinson was chairman of the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees when he engaged activities that led to dozens of federal criminal charges filed against him.

The question that needs to be answered is if his position with the board made him a public official. To Pinson's attorneys, the answer is no.

On Thursday, the defense brought up no witnesses in his defense and attempted to convince the judge to throw out much of the government's case against Pinson after prosecutors opted to rest their case. Likewise, the attorney for Eric Robinson followed suit.

However, Judge David Norton disagreed keeping the bulk of the government's case in tact before ruling on the public official question.

It wasn't a question that the jury would have to answer. In fact, the members were sent out for the day and scheduled to return on Friday. They will be reminded that Pinson and his co-defendant did not have to offer a defense to the allegations leaving the jury to focus almost on the prosecution's case.

What the jury has to work with is extensive, lengthy testimonies from several people who worked closely with Pinson on development projects only to find themselves charged with and pleading guilty to a range of crimes.

Among those witnesses was Florida businessman Richard Zahn who made it clear Wednesday that he considered the Porsche Cayenne SUV he promised Pinson to be a payoff for Pinson to convince the trustees to agree to buy property that Zahn was attempting to get rid of.

In addition to more than a week's worth of live testimony, the jury also must consider comments contained from over 100 wiretapped phone conversations between Pinson, Robinson, Zahn and others.

The recordings span over 120 days in 2011 have Pinson and Robinson  discussing financial favors for various officials, profits for themselves and using expletives to describe the people around them.

The defense's strategy also signals that there will be no testimony from Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin or councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine.  Benjamin was mentioned prominently because he was a friend and business partner to Pinson.

More than likely, closing arguments will take place on Friday.

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