Christian Dawkins, Merl Code convicted in college basketball corruption trial

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Yahoo Sports

A federal jury found basketball middleman Christian Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code guilty of bribing college basketball coaches to steer players to their budding management firm.

The verdict, delivered Wednesday afternoon in the Southern District of New York, came after a two-week trial. Both Dawkins and Code had previously been convicted on fraud charges following an October 2018 trial. They were both sentenced to six months in a federal prison camp, although each has appealed the verdict, which centered on the concept that Code, Dawkins and Adidas executive Jim Gatto had “defrauded” universities by paying recruits to attend their school.

The verdicts in this case undermine that since each man was found not guilty on charges that relate to defrauding schools. That bolsters hope concerning the appellate case.

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Dawkins, 26, was found guilty on two of the six counts before him in this case. Code, 45, was convicted of just one of four. While one is all that matters, the verdicts suggest the jury was not overly impressed with the defrauded school theory.

“I think the takeaway was that no universities at issue were defrauded by the defendants’ actions,” Code’s Greenville, South Carolina-based attorneys, Andrew Mathias and Allen Chaney, told Yahoo Sports.

Basketball middleman Christian Dawkins (L) and former Adidas consultant Merl Code were found guilty in federal court on Wednesday. (AP)
Basketball middleman Christian Dawkins (L) and former Adidas consultant Merl Code were found guilty in federal court on Wednesday. (AP)

“[The] jury seems to have spoken loudly and in the Southern District of New York not guilty on four of six counts, including not guilty on all of the honest services counts, which offers us some degree of satisfaction,” said Dawkins’ attorney, Steve Haney.

While federal prosecutors say their investigation into college basketball is “ongoing,” the convictions effectively end a scandal that rocked basketball with the arrest of 10 men in September of 2017 following a three-year FBI undercover investigation.

At the time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office promised to expose corruption throughout college and grassroots basketball. It won two convictions of Code and Dawkins, plus one of Adidas executive Jim Gatto. Assistant college coaches Emanuel “Book” Richardson, Tony Bland, Lamont Evans and Chuck Person all reached plea deals. So did financial planner Munish Sood, who testified at both trials, and former NBA ref-turned-clothier Rashan Michel.

The feds dropped wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges on former AAU coach Brad Augustine, after it became clear that rather than give a so-called bribe to the family of a top prospect, he actually pocketed the money himself.

The investigation began when Marty Blazer, a Pittsburgh financial planner, was caught stealing $2.3 million from his clients. As part of his plea deal, he promised to cooperate and help the government catch agents, financial planners and college coaches who were paying people off to land recruits, either for their teams or agencies.

Blazer, one of the government’s star witnesses in the second trial, still awaits sentencing. He said on the stand he faces a possible 67 years in prison but hopes his cooperation nets him just probation. The cases Blazer helped deliver featured far smaller amounts of money than his original case and focused mostly on families, players and handlers being paid money, rather than investors being stolen from.

While the trials and other legal proceedings unveiled myriad stories and allegations about how both college coaches and NBA agents recruit players, it lacked resounding proof against the biggest names in the sport. Few basketball fans had ever heard of any of the men involved, with the exception of Person, who was an NBA star before becoming an assistant coach at Auburn.

As a result, it is likely to spur little change within the NCAA, whose rules of amateurism were shown to be ignored, scorned and violated at nearly every turn.

Both men will face sentencing from Judge Edgardo Ramos. After the first trial, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan gave all three men (Gatto, Code and Dawkins) sentences far shorter than the recommended guidelines, a rebuke to the government.

It is likewise possible Code and Dawkins receive similar short sentences as the first trial that could run concurrent.

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