October 25, 2018 / 3:59 AM / in 2 months

Three men convicted in hoops corruption scandal

Defendants James Gatto, Christian Dawkins and Merl Code were each found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Wednesday in the college basketball corruption trial in New York.

FILE PHOTO: James Gatto, former Adidas director of global sports marketing, exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, following an appearance for bribery and fraud charges in connection with college basketball recruiting, in New York, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Gatto, a former Adidas executive, was found guilty on all three of his counts. Dawkins, a former runner for agent Andy Miller, and Code, a former Adidas consultant, were found guilty on two counts apiece.

Sentencing is slated for March 5.

Kansas coach Bill Self, whose program was in the crossfire during the trial, said later Wednesday that the Jayhawks hadn’t broken any NCAA rules.

“Today’s convictions expose an underground culture of illicit payments, deception and corruption in the world of college basketball,” U.S. Attorney Robert S. Khuzami said in a statement. “These defendants now stand convicted of not simply flouting the rules but breaking the law for their own personal gain.

“As a jury has now found, the defendants not only deceived universities into issuing scholarships under false pretenses, they deprived the universities of their economic rights and tarnished an ideal which makes college sports a beloved tradition by so many fans all over the world.”

Gatto’s convictions were related to activities involving Louisville and Kansas. Dawkins and Code were found guilty in the Louisville scheme, which involved the father of player Brian Bowen Jr. accepting $100,000 from Adidas to send his son to Louisville.

The scandal led to the firing of Louisville coach Rick Pitino last October.

The jury, made up of eight women and four men, deliberated more than 19 hours over three days before reaching a verdict.

Gatto will appeal the verdict, according to Michael Schachter, one of his lawyers.

Adidas didn’t have an issue with the verdict.

“We cooperated fully with the authorities during the course of the investigation and respect the jury’s verdict,” Adidas said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with the NCAA and other stakeholders in a collaborative and constructive manner to improve the environment around college basketball. We have strengthened our internal processes and controls and remain committed to ethical and fair business practices.”

Prosecutors claimed the defendants concealed payments that violated NCAA rules while helping steer players to specific schools.

Allegations of wrongdoing against Kansas are connected to the recruitment of former player Billy Preston and current player Silvio De Sousa.

A defense attorney for Gatto said during the trial that his client, acting on Self’s behalf, paid $20,000 to recruit De Sousa to Kansas. The payout for Preston was $90,000.

Kansas announced earlier Wednesday that De Sousa will be held out of competition while the claims are further evaluated.

Later Wednesday, Self declared his program’s innocence of NCAA wrong-doing.

“When recruiting prospective student-athletes, my staff and I have not and do not offer improper inducements to them or their families to influence their college decisions, nor are we aware of any third-party involvement to do so,” Self said. “As the leader of the Kansas men’s basketball program, I take pride in my role to operate with integrity and within the NCAA rules, which is a fundamental responsibility of being the head basketball coach.”

The University of Kansas also stood behind Self, but it said it couldn’t comment on all details with two more federal trials into the basketball scandal due to begin early next year.

Former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person is slated for court in February after being accused of accepting $91,500 in bribes to steer players to sign with certain financial advisers and agent.

Three other former assistant coaches — Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson,” Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans and Southern California’s Tony Bland — are scheduled for an April trial. They are accused of accepting bribes from Code and Dawkins.

During the just-concluded trial, former Adidas consultant Thomas Gassnola testified that he gave former North Carolina State assistant coach Orlando Early $40,000 to give to the family of coveted guard Dennis Smith Jr. Gassnola testified for the government after pleading guilty to wire fraud.

Smith is now in his second season with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

—Field Level Media

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