Kansas coach Bill Self was aware of — and requested — an improper payment to at least one recruit, an attorney representing one of three men charged in a pay-for-play scheme reiterated in closing arguments on Thursday.
In his statement that lasted one hour and 10 minutes, attorney Michael S. Schachter, representing Adidas executive James Gatto, said his client was acting on behalf of Self in trying to help lure recruits to the schools.
Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino also was aware of similar payments in his program, Schachter said in his closing argument.
U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan is scheduled to give jury instructions on Monday morning, allowing deliberations to begin after that. The jurors have a three-day weekend.
Gatto and two another defendants have been charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud by taking part in a plan to pay the families of top basketball recruits. The prosecution contends the schools, including Kansas, were victims of the conspiracy because any player receiving aid would be ineligible and lead to financial losses and further trouble for the programs.
Schachter, however, said that Gatto agreed to funnel a $20,0000 payment to Fenny Falmagne, the guardian of Silvio De Sousa, after Self and Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend asked former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola for the money.
De Sousa currently is on Kansas’ roster.
“The evidence, I submit, shows that Kansas’ head coach knew of and asked for a payment to be made to Silvio De Sousa’s handler,” Schachter told the jury. “More than that, Coach Self requested just the kind of help that Mr. Gassnola arranged as a condition for Coach Self to permit Adidas to continue their sponsorship agreement with the University of Kansas.”
In September 2017, Kansas announced a 12-year contract extension with Adidas valued at $191 million. As of this past spring, the contract had not been signed.
Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, who worked as a runner for NBA agent Andy Miller, are on trial in New York. Gatto is the only defendant linked to Kansas.
Each man has pleaded not guilty.
Gallo stands accused of using Gassnola as the middleman to arrange a payment of $90,000 from Adidas to the mother of recruit Billy Preston, as well as $20,000 to Falmagne. That money has been characterized as necessary to help De Sousa “get out from under” a pay-for-play plan to attend Under Armour-sponsored Maryland.
In the prosecution’s rebuttal, assistant U.S. attorney Edward Diskant told the jury that if Self or any coach was aware of the pay-for-play scheme, “he wasn’t supposed to be.”
“The defendants knew these universities could not and would not issue scholarships to these kids, and so they concealed it,” Diskant said. “And that’s where the bat phones come in, the cash deliveries, the fake documents, the various false statements and certifications the defendants caused to be made. Because the defendants knew what they were doing was wrong — plain and simple.”
University of Kansas attorneys have been present in the courtroom throughout the three-week trial.
—Field Level Media