Attorneys representing five men in the FBI’s college basketball corruption scandal, including three assistant coaches, have asked a U.S. District Court judge in New York to dismiss charges for an upcoming case.
According to a report from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, the attorneys are hoping the charges of bribery, fraud and conspiracy get thrown out before the case is scheduled to begin trial on April 22. The assistant coaches include Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson, Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans and USC’s Tony Bland. In the motion filed Monday night, the attorneys are arguing that their clients might have violated NCAA rules by accepting money, but they didn’t commit federal crimes.
“In this case, the Government has singled out certain alleged NCAA rules violations as ‘corrupt’ and decided to prosecute them as federal crimes,” the attorneys wrote in the motion. “[The] Indictment should be dismissed because the allegations fail to support a conviction under any viable theory of criminal liability.
“To the contrary, each of the Government’s charges is predicated on a novel theory that is inconsistent with the relevant statutory language and would impermissibly extend the boundaries of federal criminal law well beyond constitutional limits.”
According to Schlabach, sources told ESPN that federal prosecutors have had discussions with defense attorneys about reaching potential plea agreements to avoid another trial. The three coaches are accused of accepting bribes to steer players at their programs to sign with certain financial advisors and agents once they went pro.
While it’s unlikely that the government would ever throw these charges away, the potential for a plea agreement is the intriguing part of this story. The last college basketball corruption trial saw a similar motion get dismissed, so it’s doubtful this ploy to get the charges tossed helps at all.
But, if a plea agreement is reached, it might prevent a trial from happening. And no trial means we probably won’t get all of the information about these events publicly. That has major implications. It would potentially protect some of the coaches, players and schools involved in this case.
If evidence isn’t publicly presented, and we don’t get testimony from primary people linked in the case, then we might not get a clear idea of how some of these alleged incidents went down. It would also be harder for the NCAA to do its job when it comes to bringing down potential punishments after all of this has played out.
Obviously, we’re dealing with a lot of hypothetical scenarios at this point, but the plea agreement is the main thing to keep an eye on here. If no plea agreement is reached, expect the trial to proceed in April.