NEW YORK — Former Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson’s name once again figured prominently as closing arguments in the federal bribery case involving college basketball began Friday.
In making the government’s case to the jury that defendants Christian Dawkins and Merl Code are guilty of six counts of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, wire fraud and violations of the travel act, prosecutor Noah Solowiejczyk invoked payments made or directed by Dawkins and Code to several assistant college basketball coaches, including Richardson. On secretly recorded videos played in court, Richardson asked for money so he could facilitate the recruitment of former Arizona commit Jahvon Quinerly.
UA coach Sean Miller’s name was not mentioned Friday after it was invoked on several days leading up to the end of the trial.
Speaking at a podium facing the 12-member jury in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse, Solowiejczyk sought first and foremost to paint Dawkins, the would-be-agent who was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the first college basketball trial in October, as an untrustworthy liar.
Dawkins sat just a few feet away in the courtroom, flanked by his defense attorneys. His father, Cleveland State assistant coach Lou Dawkins, has also been in the courtroom throughout the trial.
The prosecutor said Dawkins was “simply not credible” and “over the last two days lied to you under oath repeatedly.”
Dawkins testified Wednesday and Thursday.
“When you get caught on tape paying coaches envelopes full of cash, well that’s very hard to explain away,” Solowiejczyk said, referring to videotape shown during the trail of multiple coaches, including Richardson, accepting money.
Through the presentation of video, transcripts and bank records Friday, the prosecutor argued Dawkins’ whole defense “was just a lie.”
Dawkins has maintained he never paid any coaches and thought the whole concept was “idiotic.” He has said he’s in favor of paying college players, but that paying coaches yielded no benefits and was too risky.
The prosecutor argued the defendants bribed Richardson, USC’s Tony Bland, South Carolina’s Lamont Evans and TCU’s Corey Barker in order for those coaches to steer players to Dawkins’ fledgling management company, LOYD Inc.
The prosecutor explained how Richardson helped facilitate a meeting in Arizona between Dawkins’ money man, Munish Sood, and Rodney Labossiere, the cousin of former Arizona wing Rawle Alkins.
“I did my job,” Richardson said in a recording shown during the trial and mentioned to the jury by the government on Friday.
At one point, the government replayed video to the jury of Richardson accepting a $5,000 payment from Sood and an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor. The money was ostensibly so Richardson would direct Arizona’s players back to Dawkins and Sood for representation.
Solowiejczyk also argued that Dawkins helped facilitate a $15,000 payment to Richardson on July 20, 2017, that was intended to help bring Quinerly to Arizona.
“Dawkins wanted to get the money for Richardson so Richardson could get the player for Arizona and Richardson could steer the player back to him,” Solowiejczyk told the jury.
A transcript was shown of Richardson saying Quinerly’s mother told him, “Maybe you could help me with $20,000, $25,000.” Richardson was also quoted on a recording saying Quinerly’s mother wanted to move to Tucson after her son committed in August 2017.
“Richardson tells Dawkins, ‘I need money to sort out this Quinerly situation’ and then Dawkins goes and gets that money,” the prosecutor said. “That still can be a bribe under the law. Dawkins directed bribes to these coaches. He expected something in return and the coaches began to take action.”
In one recording shown to the jury of a call between Dawkins and the undercover FBI agent, Dawkins said, “If your end game is that the kids come back to the (expletive) company, you should pay a guy like Merl or a Book. Pay them and at the end of the day you don’t even have to deal with the guy at (Texas) A&M or (expletive) Kansas.”
Even if coaches like Richardson kept the money for themselves, the prosecutor said it still constituted a bribe.
“Whether or not the coaches intended to keep this in their own pockets or use it for recruits, that’s not relevant,” he said.
The defense will make its closing argument beginning Monday before the case heads to the jury.