Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A witness made surprising claims about Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin during day three of the trial of former South Carolina State University Board Chairman Jonathan Pinson.
Pinson is accused of racketeering and fraud during his tenure with the university.
Wednesday's testimony began with former SC State Chief of Staff Ed Givens finishing his testimony by explaining to Pinson's defense attorneys that the culture at SC State was that you didn't cross the chairman, even before Pinson.
"Getting sideways with the chair was a death blow to your career," testified Givens.
Next, Lillian Adderson told the jury about the 2011 homecoming concert at the school, which is one of the alleged criminal ventures prosecutors believe Pinson headed.
During that concert, Eric Robinson was hired with Will Joy as W.E. Entertainment to promote the concert. Joy and Givens testified that under the agreement, the four men would split the company's share of profits four ways for getting them the contract with SC State. The concert, however, was not profitable, so the men didn't get any money.
Joy, who took the stand following Adderson, says he believed Givens was the one who pushed for the kickback scheme and wasn't aware of it being Pinson's idea.
Finally prosecutors called Dr. Charles Smith, the former Vice President of Student Affairs at SC State to testify.
One of the other reported criminal ventures prosecutors say Pinson was involved in was trying to get a $3 million Sportsmen Lodge owned by his friend, Richard Zahn, purchased by the school. Prosecutor DeWayne Pearson said in opening statements that Pinson was promised profit if that deal went through, and began introducing others to Zahn in the hopes of pushing it through.
Smith says he was introduced to Zahn during an impromptu overnight trip to Orlando. During that night in December of 2010, Smith testified that he, former SC State Police Chief Mike Bartley, Pinson and Mayor Steve Benjamin went to a strip club after stopping for dinner.
Smith then said they brought two girls back to the hotel and he went to bed. Prosecutors asked if he saw the men that night again and Smith testified that Chief Bartley knocked on his door and asked him to come to check on the others.
According to Smith, he was taken to a room where he saw the two young girls along with Zahn, Pinson and Benjamin. He testified that he then became uncomfortable and went back to his room. The men allegedly flew back home the next morning.
Smith added that he was later told "we were never there" and didn't speak of it again.
The former vice president was still testifying by close on Wednesday, and prosecutors say they plan to call more witnesses to the stand after him.