COLUMBIA, S.C. ― Jonathan Pinson, former board chairman of the South Carolina State University, was sentenced this week to five years in prison for skimming money and receiving kickbacks from several projects. Pinson, a Greenville businessman, also must pay restitution in the amount of $337,843.05 and is subject to five years’ supervision after his release.
Federal Judge David Norton cited Pinson’s use of his position at the historically Black university in Orangeburg as a major factor in determining the sentence. Prosecutors had sought 12 years in prison as a result of Pinson’s conviction on 29 of 45 felony charges; the defense had asked for two.
In one instance, Pinson, 45, was to receive a $90,000 Porsche Cayenne for his role in helping a developer land a $3 million contract with the university. Another scheme involved steering the concert promotion contract for the university’s 2011 homecoming to his close friend and former SCSU roommate in exchange for a kickback.
The government presented 20 witnesses and played 118 secretly recorded telephone calls during the trial last year. The prosecution portrayed Pinson as the ringleader of a half-dozen lawbreakers. Four of Pinson’s associates pled guilty as a result of the investigation.
“I’m sure (Pinson) loved the university, but maybe he loved money more than he loved the university – that is certainly what came through on the tapes,” Norton said just before pronouncing sentence.