- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A former chief of staff and general counsel at South Carolina State University on Tuesday admitted in court of lying to FBI agents in the ongoing public corruption investigation at the historically black school.

Edwin Givens, 50, of Columbia, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony before U.S. District Judge David Norton. Givens is the sixth person to plead guilty to charges in the case.

Nancy Wicker, the chief of the criminal division of the South Carolina U.S. Attorney’s Office, told the judge that Givens received a $500 kickback in 2011 for helping direct the entertainment contract for the Orangeburg school’s homecoming dance to a company operated by Eric Robinson, who is also charged.

Although Givens returned the $500 to the school, he later denied knowledge of the kickback during an interview with FBI agents, the prosecutor said.

Givens did not speak to reporters leaving the courthouse, but one of his attorneys handed out a single-page statement.

In it, Givens said he regretted his actions but added “I never profited in any way from these illegal activities. Not one single dime.”

He said he was in “a horrible situation” as general counsel at South Carolina State University.

“During an earlier investigation of a former board member, I was accused of cooperating with authorities and the interim president at the time threatened to fire me,” the statement said. “While it is no excuse for not reporting illegal activity, I allowed this and other threats of retaliation to cloud my judgment.”

Wicker said authorities knew about the kickback through wiretapped conversations between Givens and former trustee Jonathan Pinson. She also said that two witnesses could testify to the arrangement.

Under a plea agreement, Givens said he would cooperate with the government and prosecutors will recommend a sentence of six months of probation if he complies.

The maximum sentence for misprision of a felony is three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Givens will be sentenced after the usual federal presentencing report is completed.

Pinson and Robinson face various charges and were scheduled to go on trial in Columbia next month.

The two were originally charged in the homecoming kickback scheme. But last November, prosecutors brought new charges against both men including racketeering and fraud. Pinson is also accused of trying to get the university to buy land from a Florida developer in exchange for a Porsche SUV for himself as a thank you gift.

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