Defendant in hoops corruption case testifies that Arizona's Sean Miller paid players

NEW YORK — For the third straight day, an inference to Arizona coach Sean Miller paying players emerged in federal court.

Under oath here on Thursday morning, Christian Dawkins testified that Miller was paying players. Under cross-examination from defense attorney Mark Moore, who represents Dawkins’ co-defendant, Dawkins answered “yes” when asked to confirm that on an FBI wiretap there was discussion of Miller paying Arizona players.

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Moore opened up a line of questioning about Dawkins’ relationship with Miller. Dawkins confirmed that he had a relationship with Miller, but stopped short of saying that they were friends.

“We had a pretty good relationship,” he said.

Dawkins then testified that he never paid Miller any money, a central tenant to the defense’s thesis that Dawkins and Code weren’t bribing coaches because it would have been an ineffective recruiting tool.

When asked by Moore if Dawkins knew Miller was paying players, the question was interrupted by an objection from federal prosecutors. It was then asked again in reference to the wiretap conversations played on Tuesday, which focused on Miller paying Wildcat players Deandre Ayton and Rawle Alkins. Dawkins then confirmed the notion brought up on the wiretaps.

“On this call, there is a discussion of Sean Miller paying players.” Moore asked Dawkins.

“Yes,” Dawkins responded.

Christian Dawkins was on the stand in his own defense on Thursday in the second federal trial on corruption in basketball. (AP file photo)
Christian Dawkins was on the stand in his own defense on Thursday in the second federal trial on corruption in basketball. (AP file photo)

That led to Dawkins memorably answering a question about defrauding a school, which was a key piece of the first corruption trial in October. His first conviction is under appeal for that argument. “Defrauding a school?” Dawkins said, incredulously. “You can’t defraud a school. I don’t even know how that’s possible…It’s ridiculous.”

Miller was subpoenaed to appear as a defense witness at the trial, but Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled that he didn’t have to take the stand. Still, across this trial Miller has been tied to actions that could be considered significant violations of NCAA rules. While they were not illuminated with empirical evidence, the wiretap conversations included allegations that Miller “fronted” the money for Ayton and later that he was paying $10,000 a month for him. Dawkins also said on additional FBI-recorded conversations that Miller was “taking care” of Alkins and also that Miller is “getting killed” from the totality of the payments.

Miller has denied that he’s ever “knowingly violated NCAA rules” while the coach at Arizona. Ayton went on to become the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Both in-house and outside attorneys representing the University of Arizona have taken in portions of the trial here at the Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Arizona released a statement on Wednesday night that it takes “the information presented in court today very seriously.”

The evidence portion of the trial concluded on Thursday afternoon and Friday will feature jury instructions and the prosecution’s closing arguments. The jury is expected to get the case on Monday after the defense offers its own closing arguments.

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