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2d Circuit Upheld NCAA Basketball Bribery Convictions of Gatto Now Sup Ct Denies Cert

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreonthread

SDNY COURTHOUSE,  Dec 13 – The convictions in the SDNY college basketball bribery cases of James Gatto, Merl Code, and Christian Dawkins was upheld by a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in January 2021.

  And now, as noted by SDNY District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, temporarily off the record in jury deliberation in another case on December 13, 2021, the Supreme Court has denied cert. Petition here, amicus brief here. Watch this site.

  "On appeal,  they contend that the government failed to prove that they intended to defraud the universities -- North Carolina State University ("N.C. State"), the University of Kansas ("Kansas"), and the University of Louisville ("Louisville") (collectively, the "Universities") -- and that their intent instead was to help the Universities by bringing them top recruits to ensure winning basketball programs."

  But the panel, including SDNY District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer sitting by designation, concluded that "[h]ere, as the jury could have reasonably found, Defendants deprived the Universities of property -- athletic-based aid that they could have awarded to students who were eligible to play -- by breaking NCAA rules and depriving the Universities of relevant information through fundamentally dishonest means." Full decision here.

 Circuit Judge Gerald E. Lynch, in a partial dissent, opined that "Gatto’s conviction as to count three and Dawkins’s convictions on counts one and two should be reversed."

The decision is United States v. Gatto et al., 19-0783-cr(L).

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.  Meanwhile on Nike? Nothing.

 On February 6, the Assistant US Attorney Boone urged leniency under Section 5K1.1 for Martin Blazer, cooperator. Judge Edgardo Ramos inquired about the size of restitution, then imposed or granted a sentence of time served, albeit with one year of Supervised Release, restitution of $1,560,000 and forfeiture of $2.35 million. Inner City Press ran back down to the Nike / Avenatti trial, wondering when if ever the US Attorney's Office will prosecute anyone in the Nike scandal, of payments to Deandre Atyon and Bol Bol. Watch this site.

 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.

  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.


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