New developments coming in Chuck Person’s federal basketball case

The feds’ case against college hoops corruption keeps plugging along. (Yahoo illustration)
The feds’ case against college hoops corruption keeps plugging along. (Yahoo illustration)

The least active of the three cases tied to the federal basketball investigation is on the cusp of some new developments. A document filed in federal court on Monday reveals that a superseding indictment – essentially a new indictment to replace the last one – is coming in the next 30 days in the case against former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person and clothier Rashan Michel.

A letter from Michel’s lawyer, Jonathan Bach, asks for “suspension of briefing” because the “government has advised that it intends to file a superseding indictment within the next 30 days.”

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This means that the government could be adding new information to the original indictment. It will also likely “further clarify its theory of wire fraud,” which the government had stated it intended to do in a recent filing.

“It’s a fair assumption that the government is likely to add facts and/or new allegations that are either responsive to defendants’ effort to dismiss the case and/or newly discovered allegations or both,” said Stephen L. Hill, a partner at the Kansas City branch of the global law firm, Dentons, and a former federal prosecutor.

Both Person and Michel face up to 80 years for a variety of charges, which include bribery conspiracy, solicitation of bribes and wire fraud. Person is accused of soliciting $91,500 in bribes to help deliver two Auburn basketball players to Martin Blazer, a former financial advisor who was a cooperating witness for the government. Person allegedly arranged meetings with Blazer and families of the players and falsely touted his credentials. (Michel allegedly arranged a meeting at an Applebee’s in Auburn where federal documents detail that Blazer gave Person $5,000 in cash as a loan.) Both pleaded not guilty in November.

The letter indicating the government’s intention to file a superseding indictment follows a flurry of activity in the case last week. On April 30, defense counsel filed a 30-page motion to suppress wiretap and cell phone evidence gathered by the government from the phones of Person and Michel. The motion argued that it was an unlawful invasion of privacy and was not supported by probable cause of crimes committed by those under surveillance. In a footnote, the motion asserted that information gathered with the assistance of cooperating witness Martin Blazer should not be admissible in court:

“Not only did the government have no reason, apart from rank speculation, to believe that Mr. Person was accepting money from other sources or that Mr. Michel was involved in bribery schemes other than those instigated by Mr. Blazer, but the government’s theory was never substantiated, even with the benefit of thousands of hours of Mr. Person’s and Mr. Michel’s phone calls. There has been no suggestion whatsoever that Mr. Person or Mr. Michel were engaged in any alleged bribery schemes apart from those that the government itself concocted and directed Mr. Blazer to execute.”

U.S. attorneys filed a 43-page response to the motion reiterating their stance and stating that “all of the counts in the Indictment are properly alleged. … There can be no serious dispute that the 27-page Indictment returned in this case amply alleges each of the elements of the offenses charged and fairly informs the defendants of the charges against which they must defend.”

Later in the document, the U.S. attorneys clarify their gameplan in the case, noting in response to defense motions that “the Government intends to seek a Superseding Indictment.” That led to Bach’s motion Monday to suspend all court-activities in the case until the superseding indictment has been filed.

This will be the second superseding indictment in the federal basketball probe. In early April, in their case against Adidas employees James Gatto, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, the updated federal complaint expanded the scope of the investigation to include the basketball programs at Kansas and North Carolina State for the first time.

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