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Amid NCAA Bribery Scandal Bill Self Denies Knowing of Pole Dancers In Kansas Allen Fieldhouse

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreonthread

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Oct 5 – While the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York urged and got "time served" leniency for Adidas "black ops" operative Thomas Gassnola and then on September 12 for briber turned government witness Munish Sood, on October 4 Merl Code got a three month sentence, consecutive to his other six months. 

 As the SDNY winds down, and Kansas' Bill Self said there is not reason to pursue him even for the administrative violation of failures to supervise, "his" gym the Allen Fieldhouse hosted a Late Night in the Phog midnight madness event with pole dancing, a money gun and Snoop Dogg. So which is it - is Bill Self supervising, and responsible for this (as he denies), or is he not supervising? And others in the outer orbits of the college basketball bribery scandal are relaxing, slipping away. Not as much immunity as the SDNY prosecutors left in the United Nations after two convictions of the bribers but not the bribees, but almost.

  On September 12 in an ill-attended sentencing before SDNY Judge Kimba Wood, Sood was all smiles. The only issue may be restitution and even that is not clear. Judge Woods asked the prosecutors to get her the transcripts or pleading from the proceedings before Judge Lewis Kaplan.

 The government's sentencing submission under Section 5K1.1 says among other things that "Sood gave Evans $2,000 in recognition of Evans having arranged the meeting for Sood with Player-1's mother." But it downplays his role in the University of Louisville scam, emphasizing that Sood only came in later. We hope to have more on this. For now, more on Patreon here.

 In the kind of SDNY screw up that too rarely even gets mentioned, Assistant US Attorney Eli J. Mark's Gassnola sentence submission at footnote 2 complains that "The PSR mistakenly states that the date of Gassnola's plea was April 11, 2018, and that the plea has not been accepted. Gassnola pled guilty before Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses on March 30, 2018, and Judge Victor Marrero accepted the plea on April 9, 2018, prior to the case being reassigned to Your Honor. The docketing of Gassnola's case was delayed until April 11, 2018, likely leading to the confusion." Really? Inner City Press will have more on this.

Former Auburn assistant basketball coach and NBA player Chuck Connors Person received a sentence of time served and extensive praise from Judge Loretta A. Preska of the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 17.

  While the government over-reached in describing Person's motive as "insatiable" greed, given money he has given or loaned to causes and people in Alabama, Judge Preska notably did not mention in going with time served that Person claimed that government cooperator Marty Blazer was his and Charles Barkley's financial adviser, and urged the use of burner phones to cover up.

 Now in August, fellow NCAA convictees have appealed from their conviction, telling the Second Circuit among other things that "During jury selection, the District Court struck every person who felt that college athletes should be paid, see A91-A95, and ultimately, the jury consisted of 12 people who did not follow college basketball and were thus especially unlikely to engage in unlawful jury nullification based on a newly-impassioned belief that the NCAA’s rules were unjust. The District Court’s decision to preclude Appellants from presenting Dr. Rascher’s testimony was prompted by its belief that this testimony would be utilized to support an improper defense “approach” that encouraged the jury to acquit not because the Government failed to prove its case, but because the NCAA’s rules were unfair. (SPA 37 (“the bulk of [Appellants’] proposed expert testimony” was being offered in order to 'threaten a jury verdict based on perceived economic unfairness of the NCAA rules to the student athletes rather than on the merits of the charges”).)'"  This is why it's good, or at least interesting, to go to trial. Inner City Press will continue to cover these cases, and issues.

  Back on July one expected Judge Preska, even before going with time served, to say as Judge Edgardo Ramos did that "the conduct charged is serious." Here, Judge Preska concluded that Chuck Person's problem was that he was generous to a fault.  More, including on Luverne "loan" and the former Superintendent of Banks of the State of Alabama John D. Harrison on Patreon, here.

  In the middle of the proceeding one of the Assistant US Attorneys in the back of the courtroom left, and one can imagine why. This transcript is a rebuke to the SDNY's prosecution. What if Merl Code had gotten Judge Preska? Charity and mercy are good to see, but it is hard not to see a disparity in sentencing here. The argument that Person's loss amount only rose because the government didn't choose to arrest him earlier is one that could be tried by any number of defendants. And, just as an aside for now, will belatedly charitable UN briber Patrick Ho be quietly allowed to return to Hong Kong and China to be released, as filings in his case have been sealed? What *was* that proceeding, from which Inner City Press was asked to leave?

Former University of South Carolina and Oklahoma State assistant basketball coach Lamont Events was sentenced to three months in prison on June 7 by SDNY Judge Ramos. Evans will also have to pay back $22,000 he received.

 But there's more: Evans' lawyer former Assistant US Attorney Martin told Judge Ramos that despite Evans being in the US since he was two years old he is not a citizen and he may face removal proceedings.

  Martin prefaced the argument by saying that in the Second Circuit he is not permitted to argue, nor Judge Ramos to consider, this. Judge Ramos did not refer to it in imposing sentence, on his third coach in as many days. He permitted Evans to wait until July 26 to self-surrender, so he can finish basketball work with his son.

  On June 6 before Judge Ramos passed sentence, like Evans on June 7, Emanuel "Book" Richardson spoke for himself. He said he's from New York City and has lived in all boroughs except Staten Island. He said his mother gave birth to him when she was fifteen years old. He said he has emptied out his 401(k). He is apparently teaching basketball to teenagers, for $40 to $50 an hour.

  Judge Ramos imposed a sentence lower than Merl Code, for example, got in the first case, but higher than the previous day's sentence on USC's Tony Bland, who received only the two years probation for taking a $4,100 bribe from Christian Dawkins.  Lamont Evans is still out there, and Inner City Press will continue to cover this case.

  Judge Ramos said the University of Arizona has been injured, by prospects de-committing and by what he seemed to accept is an impending or begun NCAA investigation specifically of University of Arizona.

  The day before on June 5, Bland's defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman  who with a colleague was again in Judge Ramos' courtroom on June 6, speaking afterwards with Richardson and then his lawyer - described Bland's tough childhood in Watts, comparing it to his own and to that of Assistant U.S. Attorney Eli Mark (who was present but did not do the speaking for the government on June 6).

  Lichtman and Mark has faced off at a sentencing on June 4, of Municipal Credit Union former CEO Kam Wong who, for stealing $9.8 million to spend on lottery tickets was sentenced to 66 months in prison by SDNY Judge John Koeltl. Inner City Press coverage here.

 Lichtman said that while there had been a lot of angry victim letters against his client Kam Wong, there were none against Tony Bland. He said that Bland has become a friend. Kam Wong, apparently, not so much.

  Judge Ramos, in his courtroom where he recently heard the Trump v. Deutsche Bank case now on appeal to the Second Circuit [Inner City Press coverage here], asked AUSA Mark if the allegedly victimized student athletes had spoken to the grand jury. This question was understandably not answered, at least not as to the grand jury.

  He said that the legitimacy or not of not paying college athletes had not played a role in his view of the case or sentencing. He praised Bland for, despite his childhood, having had no criminal history before this, and even now only a non-violent offense. He disagreed with Lichtman's statement, or argument, that Bland is "finished." He may not work in basketball but it is a big world. The case is US v. Evans, et al., 17-cr-684 (Ramos).

Back in May 9 in the NCAA college basketball bribery trial before Judge Ramos, the jury found Christian Dawkins guilty on two of the six counts against him, Merl Code of only one. Code by the elevator outside the courtroom told the press that there had been no evidence showing him bribing any one but that the verdict is the verdict and that he and his legal team with work on it.

 Afterward just outside the courthouse where it is allowed to film, Inner City Press asked Dawkins' lawyer Steve Haney if he thinks U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman should be going after bigger fish ("yes") and about the Pre Sentencing Reports and possible concurrent running of this new sentence with the six months imposed on Dawkings in the previous James Gatto case. Video here. We'll have more on this.

  There is a continuum of focus on the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, ranging down from investigations of Donald Trump through this coming week's narrowing NCAA basketball corruption trial down to the extremely narrow prosecution of only Patrick Ho for United Nations bribery. 

While rarely viewed together, there is a pattern here,  examined below. On the morning of May 6 Christian Dawkins' attorney Steve Haney played audio clips and said they showed Dawkins may have paid players and their families but did not pay coaches. Rather, he just took Jeff D'Angelo's money. Haney urged the jury, to begin deliberating later in the day, NOT to get on Jeff D'Angelo's yacht but rather to say bon voyage to his, a government agent, and the government's case. There was Merl Code in a conversation on wire tap about taking D'Angelo's money by taking up to Madison Square Garden to meet Melo and Porginzis, and a reference (in the transcript) to "[U/I] Williamson." Can you say, Zion?

On the afternoon of May 3 On the morning of May 3 Assistant U.S. Attorney Noah Solowiejczyk ran out the clock until 2 pm, pushing the defense summations back until May 6. Solowiejczyk showed exhibits about "taking care of the moms" of Jahvon Quinerly, admitted that Marty Blazer is a convicted fraudster and closed by accusing Merl Code of "conscious avoidance." The defense projected using two hours, then the final U.S. statement in 45 monhts or less. Earlier on May 3 Judge Edgardo Ramos read his charge to the jury, omitting the state law of Oklahoma and California (of Tony Bland). Then Assistant U.S. Attorney Solowiejczyk called Christian Dawkins a liar, playing audio that he and Preston Murphy DID spoke about a Marcus, Marcus Foster who played for Creighton, not the Marcus Phillips Dawkins (he said) made up making up. The back of the courtroom was full of other Assistant U.S. Attorneys, either cheering or learning; they are sure to go over this one. Was the strategy of defending or objecting to the exposure of the wider corruption of college basketball in order to increase the odds of convicting Dawkins and Merl Code the right one? Is so, for whom? They've done it on the UN, and the corruption continues.

  On the morning of May 2, Christian Dawkins was still on the stand, telling the jury how the value to him of Assistant Coach Book Richardson was sending him NBA veterans; he said "Book is going to send me kids anyway." The government objected to mentions of Sean Miller paying prospects, or "kids." Inner City Press was told there had been no mention of any unsealing of sidebar transcripts, a topic on which we may have more.

  On May 1 Inner City Press went to cover the charging conference in Courtroom 619 of 4 Foley Square. There, significantly, the state laws of Oklahoma and California (read, Tony Bland of USC) were dropped from the charge; South Carolina (Lamont Evans) and Arizona remain. While quite civil, a majority of defense proposals by Allen Cheney were overruled, in most cases in favor of previously used language or at the insistence of Assistant US Attorney Noah Solowiejczyk.  It remains unclear if Merl Code will take the stand, and therefore if a conscious avoidance charge might be needed, and how it might be worded. The parties agreed that the charge should be read before their closing statements, which will be pushed back at least until Friday, with other issues pending.

Earlier on May 1, defendant Christian Dawkins told the jury among other things that the approach of paying college coaches was not the most effective way, since NBA prospects essentially already have agents by the time they show up for their one year of college. It's not even a full year: Dawkins said that the moment the team is eliminated from March Madness, the "one and done" prospect leaves school. See @SDNYLIVE here, a response.

   On April 30 government cooperating witness Munish Sood was asked about his motives: to avoid a $750,000 fine and being charged with lying to FBI agents, which charged the defense argued would normally not be forgiven by "the Southern District of New York," meaning the prosecutors not the court.

  The government objected to a question for Sood's net worth, and Judge Edgardo Ramos sustained the objection. Sood's previous role in a bank in New Jersey came up, without the bank being named. Inner City Press reports that it was First Choice Bank, which was bought by Berkshire Bank whose checks Sood later used for bribes. Notably, Berkshire Bank has removed from its website the page about its purchase of First Choise Bank, and Sood's services, for $117 million. But still online is their press release of a deal with Sood's Princeton Advisory Group, here...

  On April 29 at 2:30 pm after Sood quoted defendant Christian Dawkins that directly paying players and deal with their parents was "cleaner" than working through coaches like Tony Bland, a discovery dispute erupted. The defense team does not want to turn over its members' and former member's notes with witnesses they seek to call. Judge Ramos noted that the former defense lawyer was still counsel of record and had not been relieved. Whereupon the defense asked for a sidebar conversation out of the hearing of those like Inner City Press still in the courtroom. But the sidebar discussion was still transcribed by the official court reporter.

  When the sidebar was over nothing was said about its contents except a request by the defense that the transcript be sealed. Judge Edgardo Ramos asked if any of the parties objected - no question was asked to the press, or for the public - and the motion to seal was granted, subject the judge said to any more "by the parties." We'll have more on this.

  Earlier on April 29 Sood interpreted for the jury a series of video clips in which Christian Dawkins said that Lamont Evans was not worth the $4,000 a month bribe, unlike Book Richardson, and that his company LOYD Inc should focus more on paying the coaches for particular transactions rather than retainers. Sood recounted how he took $25,000 in cash and deposited in LOYD's account in New Jersey with Bank of America.

The first week of the trial ended on April 26 with Munish Sood being asked about a $2,000 Berkshire Bank check he wrote to Lamont Evans, after he said Marty Blazer harassed him to give Evans money. He testified about a meeting in Miami, adding that he personally liked Christian Dawkins, whom he is testifying against. At 2:30 pm after he stepped down and the jury left the defense pointed out that Juror #3 has been nodding off. Judge Edgardo Ramo said, Let's see what happens on Monday and if necessary, a heart to heart. The government for its part argued that the juror with eyes closed might still be listening....

   Earlier on April 26 the lawyer for Christian Dawkins mocked government witness Marty Blazer for his lack of knowledge about basketball recruit rules and got Blazer to answer questions about a Creighton player named Marcus Phillips who never, he then revealed, played for Creighton. There was an immediate sidebar with Judge Edgardo Ramos, then soon thereafter a five minute break. Or breakdown, fast break. See @SDNYLIVE.

On April 25 a lawyer for Merl Code started to cross examine government witness Marty Blazer. Blazer insisted on called Merl "Merrill," leading to him being asked if he knew Merl Code at all. Blazer began paying Lamont Evans, for whom the overall case is named, in April or May 2016, and only met Merl or Merrill Code in June 2017. That's what things ended for the day, with Code's lawyer being told an objection to his questions had only been sustained as to form. It will continue on April 26; watch @SDNYLIVE's feed.

Earlier on April 25 the government played for the jury video tapes of Christian Dawkins with Marty Blazer and Tony Bland of University of Southern California, along with an undercover agent pixelated and obscured. From the witness stand Blazer said Dawkins told Jeff that Bland "needs $13,000," tying it to "grassroots player" Marvin Bagley. It got more specific: if they could get Bagley, a slew of low first round NBA draft picks would follow, they would have to hire underlings. Next the government turned to Preston Murphy of Creighton, who Blazer said needed $6,000. This after, on video, a white envelope said to contain cash changed hands. In the back of the courtroom other Assistant US Attorneys were watching -- while across the street in 40 Foley Square, one arrived late for a 12:30 sentencing before Judge Alison Nathan, now postponed to April 26. We'll have more on this.

 On April 24 Blazer still on direct examination interpreted audio recordings for the jury, for example that head coaches' wives soon after the promotion from assistant coach get better clothes "and surgury." On the role of assistant coaches he gave the example of Boston Celtics player P.J. Dozier while at University of South Carolina dealing much more with assistant Lamont Evans than with the head coach. Objections were dealt with crisply: "Objection - foundation. "Overrule." "Thank you, your Honor."

  On April 23 the defense lawyer for Christian Dawkins told the jury that Dawkins told Book Richardson "I'm Gucci" then translated that as "I'm good" and don't need money. The lawyer for Merl Code said Code told the FBI's undercover yachtsman NOT to pay money to his coaches, before traveling to the Las Vegas meeting. The government doggedly read stipulations into the record and called their first witness, Chance Miller of University of South Carolina (and New York Law School before that). We'll have more on the trial - watch this site and see the @SDNYLIVE feed, here



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