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Mayor's Name Mentioned in Corruption Trial

As the public corruption trial continued Wednesday for the former chairman of the board at South Carolina State University, a witness brought up the name of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

The mayor is not facing any charges in the trial, but prosecutors have mentioned his name several times as a close associate of businessman Jonathan Pinson, who's charged with extortion, bribery and using his position for private gain.

The witness, former SC State University administrator Dr. Charles Smith, testified Benjamin and Pinson were in Florida in December 2010 as guests of Orlando businessman Richard Zahn to discuss development projects in South Carolina.

And Smith said Zahn took them out to dinner, then to a strip club, from which two young women went back to their hotel.

Smith testified he saw the women in a room with Pinson, Benjamin and Zahn, but gave no further details.

Pinson's attorney objected to the testimony about the strip club, but the judge overruled.

The State newspaper reports Benjamin's attorney and spokesman had no immediate comment.

Other testimony focused on whether Pinson and business associate Eric Robinson, a co-defendant, received any kickbacks involving S.C. State University and the Village at River's Edge housing development in Columbia.

 

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