Courier Journal sports director Chris White and Louisville basketball beat writer Jeff Greer talk about the FBI documents that Yahoo Sports released and what Kentucky’s involvement was.
Louisville Courier Journal
Former Auburn coach Chuck Person has filed a motion to dismiss his indictment in the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.
“The government has singled out certain alleged NCAA rules violations as ‘corrupt’ and decided to prosecute them as federal crimes,” reads the motion filed Friday by Person’s attorneys. “… The indictment must be dismissed because the allegations do not support a conviction under any viable theory of criminal liability.”
Person was indicted in November on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery; solicitation of bribes and gratuities by an agent of a federally funded organization; conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud; honest services wire fraud; wire fraud conspiracy; and travel act conspiracy.
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Person, a former Auburn associate head coach, allegedly solicited and accepted bribes totaling roughly $91,500. He is accused of influencing two Auburn players and their families to hire an FBI witness posing as a financial adviser. Person also allegedly encouraged at least one of those Auburn players to do business with co-defendant Rashan Michel’s clothing company.
The motion argues the bribery and wire services charges would require a quid pro quo act in which Person used his authority as an Auburn coach. But because it was not part of Person’s job to recommend advisers, and because the FBI witness posing as the adviser had dealings with Person and not Auburn, the charges don’t hold up, Friday’s motion to dismiss said.
“… Mr. Person did not act as an agent of Auburn University when he allegedly (recommended advisers), nor did he violate any fiduciary duty he owed to his employer,” the motion said.
The motion also argues against that the government’s claim the alleged dealings defrauded Auburn because athletes were required to sign papers saying they had not received any benefits that would violate NCAA rules.
“Under such a theory, an 18-year-old gymnast at a Division I school who accepts $1,000 from a booster and later certifies that there were no rules violations has committed federal wire fraud,” the motion said. “So has the 19-year-old swimmer at the same school if a booster pays for her parents to attend an important swim meet. This is not the law.”
The motion also referenced the recent leak of what is reportedly FBI evidence linking the ASM Sports agency to potentially NCAA-rules-violating payments to players and their families, saying they show these violations as “more routine” than her client’s indictment may indicate.
“Each year the NCAA identifies thousands of violations across many schools,” the motion said. “And documents recently published from a related case charged in this district indicate that dozens of college basketball players received payments from one sports marketing agent over a fairly short period of time. Given that this was just one college sport (basketball) and just one agency (ASM), it is not unreasonable to characterize these sorts of rules violations as more routine than the government’s recent indictments would suggest.”
Person told Marty Blazer, the witness posing as a financial adviser, that he paid the mother of one Auburn player $11,000 of the bribes and the mother of another player $7,500 of the bribes to encourage them to hire him as a financial adviser, according to the FBI complaint, which also alleges Blazer paid the mother of one player an additional $1,000 during a meeting.
Auburn, on the recommendation from its compliance department, suspended players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy this season, but the school has not confirmed their involvement as the players referenced in the FBI complaint.
Michel, who allegedly introduced the adviser to Person, is accused of helping devise and execute the scheme. He allegedly solicited and accepted more bribes to introduce Blazer to other college coaches.
A motion to dismiss was also filed by attorneys Friday on behalf of Michel.
“Mr. Michel is not alleged to have sought to gain influence over the conduct of Mr. Person’s employer, Auburn University, but only over hypothetical future business decisions of two students to whom none of the alleged conspirators are alleged to have owed any legal duty,” the motion for Michel said. “The fact that the NCAA has decided that the conduct alleged in the indictment is contrary to the values of athletic ‘amateurism’ and has ‘legislated’ against it, does not make it a crime.”
Person was one of 10 men arrested in September when the FBI unsealed its complaint and he is among six indicted. Charges against former AAU program director Jonathan Brad Augustine were dropped and financial adviser Munish Sood in February was issued a continuance that runs through Saturday, a sign he may still be working on a plea deal.