Seven men indicted in college basketball bribery scandal plead not guilty | Zagsblog
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Tuesday / May 26.
  • Seven men indicted in college basketball bribery scandal plead not guilty

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    NEW YORK — Four college basketball assistant coaches charged in a bribery scheme were among seven people who pleaded not guilty during their arraignments this week.

    After Chuck Person, 53, of Auburn, pled not guilty on Tuesday, Emanuel “Book” Richardson, 44, of Arizona, Tony Bland, 37, of Southern California and Lamont Evans, 40, of Oklahoma State followed suit on Wednesday.

    Rashan Mitchell also pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, while Merl Code and Christian Dawkins did so Wednesday.

    Richardson, Bland, Evans, Code and Dawkins have a status conference Nov. 30, while Mitchell and Person have one Dec. 4.

    “Today is the first step of the legal process,” Craig Mordock, an attorney for Richardson, told ZAGSBLOG. “Book pled not guilty and remains not guilty. He looks forward to clearing his name.”

    Former Adidas employee Jim Gatto was due in court at 4 p.m. Wednesday for his arraignment.

    The charges and accusations in three indictments handed down Nov. 8 largely mirrored the facts found in criminal complaints filed against the men when they were arrested in late September. An indictment, though a procedural step, is a document prosecutors rely upon at trial.

    Prosecutors said the men were accused of using bribes to influence star athletes’ choice of schools, shoe sponsors and agents. They face fraud and other charges that carry potential penalties upon conviction of decades in prison.

    After their arrests, Person and Evans were suspended and Bland was placed on administrative leave. Richardson was suspended and is appealing the school’s effort to dismiss him.

    The time to return an indictment was extended for a month for two defendants: Brad Augustine, the AAU program director who stepped down, and financial adviser Munish Sood.

    Augustine was accused in a criminal complaint in September with brokering and facilitating corrupt payments in exchange for a promise from players to retain the services of Sood and a sports agent also charged in the case while Sood was described as paying bribes to the coaches.

    In late October, prosecutors said in court papers that it was continuing discussions with lawyers for Sood and Augustine to bring about a possible disposition of the charges against them before indictment.

    “Chuck Person did not commit a crime and we’re confident he will be vindicated at trial after a jury hears all the evidence,” attorney Theresa Trzaskoma said at the time of the indictment.

    Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said Bland was a hardworking and well-regarding assistant coach who was “being scapegoated for all the ills of college basketball — all due to an alleged $13,000 payment.”

    “No multi-millionaire head coach was charged, or any multi-billion dollar sneaker company after years of investigation. It’s not fair and anyone who knows anything about college basketball knows this to be true,” Lichtman added.

    Lawyers for Evans, Sood and Augustine were unable to be reached for comment.

    (The AP contributed)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.