NEW YORK — The federal bribery case involving college basketball is now in the hands of the jury after the government and defense both rested on Monday.
Arizona figured prominently in the second day of closing arguments. Wiretaps and transcripts referencing former UA assistant coach Book Richardson, former wing Rawle Alkins and onetime Arizona commit Jahvon Quinerly were displayed Monday. So was audio and transcripts of wiretaps in which aspiring agent Christian Dawkins said Arizona head coach Sean Miller was paying players.
Dawkins and former Adidas rep Merl Code are charged with six counts of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, wire fraud and violations of the travel act. Both were convicted last fall of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each was given six months in prison and remains out on bail on those convictions.
“Christian Dawkins testified that not one time did he ever pay Book Richardson a dime to get a player at Arizona,” defense attorney Steve Haney, who represents Dawkins, told the jury Monday.
He later added, “In fact, did anyone from the University of Arizona even testify in this case?”
Haney subpoeaned Miller and LSU's Will Wade, but Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled two weeks ago that the coaches were “irrelevant” to the case and did not have to testify. Richardson took a plea deal this winter that did not compel him to testify in the case. He will be sentenced May 30.
Mark C. Moore, Code’s attorney, also argued there was no evidence linking Code to payments to Richardson or any of the other coaches shown on video taking payments during the trial. That group includes USC’s Tony Bland, Creighton’s Preston Murphy and TCU’s Corey Barker. Former South Carolina assistant Lamont Evans also received $2,500 per month from Dawkins while he worked for ASM, Andy Miller’s agency.
“There’s no evidence connecting (Code) to Book Richardson and there’s no evidence of Book Richardson receiving money for a specific purpose,” Moore said.
Moore added: “We didn’t hear anybody from the University of Arizona, did we?”
Government prosecutor Robert Boone, meantime, maintained that Richardson “set up a meeting for a player, Rawle Alkins,” and that his actions proved Dawkins was bribing the coach. Prosecutors say Richardson promised to steer — or attempted to steer — other Wildcats, including Ayton and Allonzo Trier, to Dawkins’ fledgling management company, LOYD Management. Evidence presented in trial also showed that Alkins’ cousin, Rodney Labossiere, met with money man Munish Sood and an FBI undercover agent in Arizona.
Richardson “got paid for it,” Boone told the jury. The former UA coach was shown on secretly recorded video receiving payments of $5,000 in June 2017 and $15,000 in July 2017.
“He wasn’t doing Christian Dawkins a favor," Boone said. "He was doing it because he was under the understanding he was getting paid.”
Haney told the jury Monday that while Richardson was paid, “Christian Dawkins was not there” when he received those two payments. Dawkins did not appear on video in either situation when Richardson accepted envelopes of cash.
Haney also played audio of Dawkins telling Richardson to “do whatever’ with the money he was paid by FBI undercover agents.
“Just go on vacation," he said. "Who cares?”
“Does that give you reasonable doubt?” Haney asked the jury. “On a wiretap call, you have direct evidence that a bribe didn’t happen.”
In response, the government played a call between Dawkins and Sood in which Dawkins talked about the need for an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor to pay Richardson $15,000.
“They money is needed immediately to pay for a recruit, Jahvon Quinerly,” Boone said. “That’s what the $15,000 is for.”
As for the $5,000 payment, Boone added, “Money wasn’t given to Book Richardson just because he’s a nice guy and Christian Dawkins wanted to give him some money … It was to help (Richardson) get LOYD Management players.”
Haney also showed several transcripts related to Miller, including one where Dawkins said, “Sean taking care of Rawle and them, so it ain’t no expense to Rawle. So that’s easy. Rawle already knows you gotta pay back.”
Haney also showed the portion of a transcript where Dawkins said, “Sean’s the one that fronted that deal. So it’s going to be some money, but we’ll figure that out.”
Last week, jurors heard secretly recorded audio in which Richardson told Dawkins that Miller was paying a monthly rate to Ayton. Miller has denied paying players, and has not been charged with a crime. Quinerly decommitted from the UA shortly after Richardson was arrested in September 2017, played his freshman season at Villanova and is now seeking a transfer.
Haney and Moore both argued there was more than a reasonable doubt that their clients were guilty.
“This case has no soul,” Haney told the jury. “It didn’t when the government made it up. It didn’t the last two weeks. And it never will.”
Haney argued that Dawkins never supported the undercover FBI agent posing as investor who pushed a “coach’s model” of paying coaches, saying that he’d never had a case before where a defendant is on a wiretap saying he won’t do exactly what he was accused of doing.
“The coach’s model, it’s not the end-all, be-all, in my opinion,” Dawkins told Richardson in one recording. “We can just save the (expletive) money. I mean, honestly it doesn’t make sense to spend it.”
Haney has conceded throughout the trial Dawkins violated NCAA rules, but said again Monday that’s not the same as violating the law.
“A violation of an NCAA rule is not a violation of the law,” he said.