NEW YORK — After nearly three weeks, the federal bribery case involving college basketball is over.
A jury found aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins guilty of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery on Wednesday, while former Adidas rep Merl Code was found guilty of conspiracy to commit bribery. Dawkins was found not guilty on four charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and violations of the travel act. Code was found not guilty on three charges of bribery, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and the travel act.
“I think that’s pretty good,” Dawkins told the Star outside the courthouse.
Dawkins went on to say that he believes players should be paid, that some coaches pay their players, and said he “never had conversations” with UA coach Sean Miller about delivering Deandre Ayton to Arizona. A February 2018 ESPN report said Miller discussed paying $100,000 to land Ayton, then considered the nation’s top high school player, in a wiretapped conversation with Dawkins.
Dawkins and Code were initially found guilty in October of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. That trial focused on Adidas-sponsored schools like Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina State.
Prosecutors in the second trial argued that Dawkins and Code bribed college assistant coaches, including Arizona’s Book Richardson. Those coaches, in exchange, promised to send their schools’ top players to Dawkins and Code for representation when they turned pro. Dawkins and Code were co-owners of a company, LOYD Inc.; so was an undercover FBI agent who was posing as an investor.
In declaring the defendants not guilty of the honest services fraud charges, the jury rejected the notion that the universities involved were victims. The prosecution had argued that Dawkins and Code worked to defraud schools, including Arizona.
The trial included frequent mentions of not only Richardson but Miller, Ayton, former Wildcat Rawle Alkins and former UA commit Jahvon Quinerly.
Last week, a defense attorney asked Dawkins twice on the witness stand whether Miller knew that Arizona players were being paid. In both cases, the government objected before Dawkins could answer; judge Edgardo Ramos sustained the objections.
Dawkins was asked Wednesday what he would have said had he been able to answer the question.
“I’m not going to answer that,” he said. “Because this is the thing, I don’t see nothing wrong with it so I’m not gonna throw nobody under the bus for something that I agree with.
“I’m not going to put (Miller) in a position that could hurt him. It’s just too sensitive for me. I don’t care that much. I don’t want him to lose his job.”
Last week, jurors listened to a June 2017 wiretap in which Richardson — who pleaded guilty in January to one federal bribery charge — told Dawkins that Miller was paying Ayton $10,000 a month.
Asked about the payments, Dawkins said: “I wasn’t there. I just got out of criminal court case for the last two months. I had no involvement with Deandre Ayton, that’s a fact. So the whole ESPN report, that’s something I couldn’t say is accurate because I never had conversations about delivering Deandre Ayton to Arizona for Sean Miller. Didn’t happen.”
ESPN’s Feb. 25, 2018, story — “FBI wiretaps show Sean Miller discussed $100K payment to lock recruit” — cited “sources familiar with the government’s evidence.” ESPN corrected the timeline presented in the story multiple times, but said it stood by its initial reporting.
Asked Wednesday about Richardson’s wiretap comment that Miller “bought” Ayton, Dawkins said: “Look at the transcripts. Book is saying, ‘Sean gave Ayton X,Y,Z.’ I’m just listening.”
Miller has not been charged with any crime. He said more than a year ago that he has never paid a player or his family member or representative to come to Arizona, and that he never will.
On a video shown to jurors earlier in the trial, Dawkins said Miller told him he was “taking care” of Ayton, but wanted to turn things over to the aspiring agent. Government witness Marty Blazer testified that he believed “taking care” meant “taking care of payments.”
Dawkins said again Wednesday that college players should be paid, especially while the NCAA, universities and coaches are making millions of dollars off student-athletes.
“There’s no question. I think that’s kind of common sense,” Dawkins said.
Dawkins said some college coaches are paying players, “as they should be.”
“The guys who are, are good people to me. I’m with them. I think they should be, that’s the right thing to do,” he said. “If you’re making tens of millions of dollars … I (saw) Dabo Swinney got ($93 million over 10 years). There’s no way you should be able to go to sleep at night with (a nearly) $100 million deal and your players make nothing. That’s (expletive).”
Joon H. Kim, then the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, boasted in September 2017 — when the FBI arrested 10 men, including Dawkins, Code and Richardson — that prosecutors planned to expose “the dark underbelly of college basketball.”
But before the trial began, Ramos ruled that testimony from Miller and LSU coach Will Wade would be irrelevant to the case against Dawkins and Code.
Dawkins testified in his own defense. Dawkins' attorney, Steve Haney, said Dawkins was put on trial “so that he would rat out the college basketball world, and he chose not to do that.” The government declined to comment on the case.
“He could have brought the whole world of college basketball to his knees — he chose not to,” Haney said. “He had every opportunity in the world to do so, to cooperate and testify against a number of people for his own personal relief, and he chose not to and fight it. And I think his fight was a good fight, and I think in many ways he won that fight.”
Asked if the government should go after figures larger than runners like Dawkins and Code, Haney said, “If they’re going to, then go after the right people, or make a change and provide these kids with the resources so their families can at least travel to see them play, so the kids are able to live above the poverty level because that’s really the level we’re talking about with these kids on these campuses.
“And they’re making these schools, these coaches, these athletic directors hundreds of millions of dollars and they’re not getting anything for that. And something needs to change. So hopefully this case will create that dialogue. And I think that jury spoke loudly today when they said those schools were not deprived of their honest services of those coaches who are engaged in providing those players with resources.”
Sentencing will occur at a later date.