NEW YORK — Arizona coach Sean Miller will not have to testify in the upcoming federal trial related to corruption in college basketball, a judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Court judge Edgardo Ramos sided with the prosecution’s motion that argued Miller and LSU’s Will Wade were irrelevant to the upcoming bribery trial.
Would-be agent Christian Dawkins and Adidas rep Merl Code are facing four federal bribery and conspiracy charges. Federal prosecutors say the two men paid college assistant coaches, including Arizona's Book Richardson; the assistants then promised to steer their players to Dawkins and Code for professional representation.
Jury selection begins Monday; the trial is expected to last two weeks. Miller and Wade will not testify, but Code's attorney, Andrew Mathias, said there are "some assistant coaches" on his witness list. He would not say who.
In a pretrial motion filed last week, prosecutors said defense attorneys intended to elicit testimony from subpoenaed coaches “about their involvement in NCAA rule-breaking by paying student athletes.” They said it would be irrelevant to do so and an attempt to unfairly garner sympathy from the jury.
ESPN reported in February 2018 that Miller discussed paying former UA star Deandre Ayton $100,000, a report Miller vehemently denied. Yahoo Sports reported in March about the existence of an FBI wiretap in which Wade spoke to Dawkins about making a “strong-ass offer” to a middleman for a recruit.
Wade was suspended shortly after the report was published, and missed the NCAA Tournament. He was reinstated Sunday after meeting with LSU officials and denying wrongdoing. Both Miller and Wade are represented by the same attorney, Stephen Thompson of Chicago.
Dawkins' attorney, Steve Haney, said in court on Friday that Miller and Wade "are engaged at systematic cheating at the highest level." He told reporters that he will show during the trial that Miller, who has not been charged with any crime and was not mentioned in the federal claim, paid players. Haney said that Dawkins and Miller discussed Ayton on the phone, but offered few other details.
"You’ll have to be here to hear the evidence," he said.
The defense argued that testimony from the uncharged coaches, in addition to audio evidence and recovered text messages, was necessary to show the state of mind Dawkins was operating under when he was accused of bribing assistant coaches.
Each side filed three arguments for Ramos to review.
Defense attorneys said they wanted to play less than an hour of audio records and a show “small number” of text messages, collected by the FBI, that provide context to the actions of Code and Dawkins.
The evidence is “relevant to prove their respective states of mind and to disprove their criminal intent,” defense attorneys said, also arguing that Code’s state of mind “is the principal matter for the jury to resolve and ‘no better way exists’ to prove his intent than for the jury to evaluate the recorded telephone conversations discussed herein.”
But prosecutors argued that the defense should not be allowed to add evidence that they did not bribe uncharged coaches because, since there is no criminal conduct in those relationships, it is irrelevant and inadmissible.
Prosecutors also argued that there should be no mention of NCAA amateurism laws during the trial because they are irrelevant to the federal proceedings. They noted that Dawkins’ attorney, Steve Haney, told Yahoo that he planned to “pull back the curtains” on college basketball’s recruiting underworld during the trial, and that the defense would attempt to elicit similar evidence that would not be relevant to the charged offenses.
While arguing for the introduction of such evidence, the defense said “it bears mentioning that this prosecution is the result of an undercover FBI operation whose purpose was to expose misconduct in college basketball.”