NEW YORK — In a stunning, unanimous verdict announced at 2:50 p.m. Wednesday in Manhattan federal court, all three defendants in the college basketball fraud and corruption trial were found guilty on all counts.
Adidas executive James “Jim” Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and former runner Christian Dawkins were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud in connection with the University of Louisville. Gatto, 48, was also charged with a single count of wire fraud in connection with the University of Kansas.
A jury foreman answered “guilty” seven times after each defendant’s name was read aloud for each of the felony charges. U. S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan set sentencing for March 5, 2019 at 10 a.m.
The trial lasted three weeks.
“Today’s convictions expose an underground culture of illicit payments, deception and corruption in (the) world of college basketball,” Robert Khuzami, the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “These defendants now stand convicted of not simply flouting the rules but breaking the law for their own personal gain. As a jury has now found, the defendants not only deceived universities into issuing scholarships under false pretenses, they deprived the universities of their economic rights and tarnished an ideal which makes college sports a beloved tradition by so many fans all over the world.”
Former head coach Rick Pitino, former assistant coach Kenny Johnson and former assistant coach Jordan Fair were all fired by Louisville in the wake of the arrests connected to the pay-for-play scheme attempting to pay the father of recruit Brian “Tugs” Bowen in return for his son attending Louisville.
Pitino, Johnson and Fair weren’t charged. Pitino’s attorney, Marc Mukasey, was in the courtroom Wednesday. Mukasey could not be reached for comment after the verdict.
One of the most compelling parts of the trial was the testimony of T.J. Gassnola, a former Adidas consultant. Gassnola testified that he helped with payments to the families of five basketball prospects: Bowen, 2018 No. 1 NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton (who attended Arizona), Billy Preston (Kansas), Dennis Smith Jr., (NC State) and Silvio De Sousa (Kansas).
Gatto’s defense attorney Michael Schachter said outside the courthouse that “of course” they would appeal the decision. Mark Moore, Code’s co-counsel, declined comment.
Code, 44, who wheeled his newborn son out of the courthouse, said, “Don’t talk to me,” when approached by a reporter. Code’s father, Merl F. Code, who was Moore’s co-counsel, followed close behind but declined comment. Code Sr. delivered an impassioned closing argument in the trial.
Dawkins, 25, also declined comment. His father, Lou, an assistant basketball coach at Cleveland State, said, “You don’t want me to talk.” The elder Dawkins broke down in tears when the verdict was read in courtroom 26b.
One of Dawkins’ other family members said none of their comments were printable. “You can read between the lines,” she said.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated over three days, starting Monday, and had to consider a mountain of evidence, including text messages, transcripts from wiretapped phone calls, invoices, university financial aid forms, testimony by university compliance officers, and the NCAA rules and regulations manual.