NEW YORK — Sean Miller could be compelled to testify in the ongoing federal corruption case involving college basketball after a video played to jurors Wednesday showed an aspiring agent bragging about his relationship with the Arizona Wildcats coach.
Defense attorney Steve Haney said he will ask the judge to reconsider a ruling preventing Miller from testifying after videotape was shown to a jury in which Christian Dawkins said he knew and worked with Miller and former UA assistant coach Book Richardson. Haney said Wednesday that he doesn’t plan to waste much time.
“First thing, 9 o’clock tomorrow morning,” he said.
Federal judge Edgardo Ramos ruled Friday that Miller and LSU coach Will Wade did not need to testify in the trial because they were irrelevant to the felony bribery charges facing Dawkins and former Adidas rep Merl Code. The judge said then that he could change his mind depending on what evidence was provided.
The prosecution’s video, which was secretly recorded on June 6, 2017, portrays what Dawkins said were plans to pay Richardson and details about a potential business arrangement between he and Miller.
In the video, Dawkins, alleged co-conspirator Munish Sood, confidential informant Marty Blazer and undercover FBI agent Jeff DeAngelo sit inside a wood-paneled room on a yacht docked off Battery Park in New York. Dawkins, Sood and Blazer discuss their plans to launch a network of schools and basketball coaches that they could control. The coaches, in exchange, plan to funnel players to the men, who would represent them as agents and financial planners when the college players turn pro.
Dawkins spends part of the meeting on the yacht boasting about his relationship with Miller and Richardson.
“Sean Miller likes to know everything that’s going on,” Dawkins tells the others on the yacht. “I can call Sean and have a conversation like, ‘this is what’s going on.’ He’ll talk on the phone about things he shouldn’t talk on the phone about.”
Dawkins tells the others that he and Miller talked a week and a half earlier, around the time Deandre Ayton was set to enroll at the UA. Dawkins says that Miller told him, “listen, I’m taking care of everything myself” with regards to Ayton, but that he wanted to “turn everything over” to the aspiring agent.
Blazer testified Wednesday as to what he thought Miller meant.
“I understood that to mean he was taking care of payments to Deandre Ayton,” said Blazer, a government witness who’s facing a maximum sentence of 67 years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, securities fraud, aggravated identity theft and making false statements and documents in a separate case.
“Sean Miller was taking care of everything for Deandre Ayton and his family.”
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reported there were at least 13 calls between phones belonging to Miller and Dawkins between May 3, 2017, and July 2, 2017, with the majority taking place in May. Dawkins’ phone connected with Richardson’s phone at least 16 times between May 5, 2017, and June 26, 2017, according to ESPN.
There was nothing explicitly said on the FBI video about any money given to Ayton, and Miller has vehemently denied a February 2018 ESPN report that said he discussed a $100,000 payment to the eventual No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Miller has not been charged with any crime.
“I have never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or representative to come to Arizona. I never have and I never will,” Miller said six days after the report, after he missed one game and five days with the Wildcats while UA officials questioned him. “I have never arranged or directed payment or any improper benefits to a recruit or prospect or their family or representative and I never will.”
The UA issued a statement Wednesday night to the Star : “We are aware of the reports of the testimony today by a government witness. We will continue to monitor the proceedings. As has been stated previously, the University of Arizona is committed to the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct in all of our athletic programs and our commitment to those principles is unwavering.”
Also in court Wednesday, the prosecution introduced a series of text messages from Dawkins with the header “These are my main guys.” At the top of the list were “Sean Miller (future hall of fame)” and “Book Richardson (superstar)” followed by many of the sport’s better-known names: former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, LSU’s Will Wade and former UNLV coach Marvin Menzies. Dawkins’ list also mentioned the basketball programs at Michigan, Cleveland State, Texas, DePaul, Creighton, USC, Oregon, North Carolina State, Miami (Fla.) and Illinois.
The ensuing FBI investigation into college basketball corruption led to the arrest of Richardson and assistant coaches from USC, Auburn and Oklahoma State.
On Wednesday, Blazer testified that the scheme originated with coaches like Lamont Evans, the former South Carolina and Oklahoma State assistant. Dawkins, and later Blazer and Sood, gave a monthly bribe to Evans in exchange for connecting them to players for representation, Blazer testified. Evans received between $2,000 and $4,500 per month between March 2016 and July 2017, Blazer said.
Blazer testified that he paid the coach in cash and with wire transfers, and in cities ranging from New York City and Atlanta to Miami, Las Vegas and Morgantown, West Virginia. The FBI deposited money in Blazer’s account to cover the payments, he said.
The yacht meeting was scheduled so the men could discuss broadening their network. Richardson, Miller’s longest-serving assistant, appeared to be a prime target. The men discussed on the video how much to pay Richardson, noting he was worth top dollar. Blazer said on tape that Richardson was worthy of $4,000 a month, and Dawkins agreed.
“Like Book, OK, that makes sense to give him four grand a month because he’s got the No. 1 pick — every year, they got a top-10 pick,” Dawkins said on tape.
Dawkins said on tape that he communicated with both Miller and Richardson because the two didn’t get along.
“Him and Sean hate each other,” Dawkins said. “It’s weird. It’s like a bad marriage.”
Richardson pleaded guilty in January to a federal bribery charge, and will be sentenced on May 30.
The videotape included a few surreal moments. In one, the men discuss the best way to pay off their widening web of coaches. Dawkins suggests doing it in a hotel suite, with the coaches visiting one at a time. In another, Sood informs the group that he is documenting the minutes of their meeting and will share them via email.
At the end of the video, DeAngelo — the undercover FBI agent posing as an investor — hands $25,000 in cash to Sood to start their enterprise.
Testimony is scheduled to continue Thursday.
Star reporter Bruce Pascoe contributed to this story.