Richardson pleaded guilty to one count of federal funds bribery, which calls for a sentencing range of 18-24 months. He was accused of taking about $20,000 in bribes from budding sports agent Christian Dawkins in exchange for agreeing to attempt to steer potential NBA-bound Arizona players to sign with Dawkins-affiliated agents and financial planners.
A final sentencing will be determined by Judge Edgardo Ramos in the Southern District of New York. Richardson originally faced up to 60 years in prison.
“Book Richardson has positively affected the lives of young men and encouraged them to reach their potential for 25 years,” said Craig Mordock, Richardson’s New Orleans-based attorney. “While he will be judged for his actions in this case, this is something he did. It is not who he is.”
Richardson followed in the footsteps of USC assistant Tony Bland, who pled guilty in December to similar charges. Due to a lower amount of money in his case, Bland is likely to receive probation but no prison time. Both deals come in the wake of prosecutors gaining convictions in October of Dawkins and Adidas executives James Gatto and Merl Code. They will be sentenced in March.
Former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans and former Auburn assistant Chuck Person have yet to agree to a plea deal at this time.
The Richardson plea represents another victory for federal prosecutor Ted Diskant and his team, which now own trial convictions over Code, Dawkins and Gatto, plus guilty pleas from Bland, Richardson and financial planner Munish Sood, who testified at the original trial.
Richardson, Evans and Bland were all set to stand trial together in April along with Code and Dawkins. Person is standing trial later in 2019 along with Atlanta clothier Rashan Michel. The cases stem from a three-year FBI investigation into college basketball’s underground economy from high school recruits through pro prospects.
The plea deals likely limit the scope of the upcoming trials and perhaps keep some evidence, testimony and information which could be violations of NCAA bylaws from becoming public. The October case both rocked and enthralled the sport as the dirty laundry of the recruiting game was aired in open court in Lower Manhattan.
That doesn’t mean the beleaguered Arizona program should breathe easy because Richardson will not stand trial.
While these deals mean fewer defendants and thus less evidence and testimony, Dawkins, through his lawyer, Steve Haney, has repeatedly declared he has no interest in pleading guilty to any crime or cooperating with prosecutors. He has vowed to fight all charges against him and deal with the consequences. That defense is expected to be vigorous. While Richardson, and his conduct at Arizona, will not be the main focus of the cases, it can still come up in detail in regards to the charges against Dawkins.
Also, any cooperation Richardson and others provide could also be shared with NCAA investigators, ramping up investigations into numerous major programs. The NCAA has confirmed a Yahoo Sports report that it has begun investigating allegations that have arisen from the federal case.
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