Three basketball insiders convicted of steering recruits to Adidas-sponsored colleges using Adidas’ money have asked a federal judge to spare them from prison.
This week, attorneys for former Adidas marketer Jim Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins requested that each be sentenced to probation.
Their March 5 sentencing in New York City will mark a final chapter in a two-year-plus federal effort to criminalize corruption within college basketball. The case exposed a clandestine effort by insiders to secure top talent for Adidas, which operates its North American headquarters in Portland, as part of a shoe war against Nike and Under Armour.
Attorneys for Gatto, Code and Dawkins have submitted more than 100 letters from character witnesses requesting leniency. Lawyers also argued that their clients should not be imprisoned because college basketball is so corrupt and the prosecution of NCAA violations is so new.
“Payments to talented college athletes are commonplace and, until the government brought this case, were generally understood to be simply a violation of NCAA rules, not a federal crime,” attorneys for Code wrote in a letter this week.
Basketball bribes: How Adidas bankrolled a black market for top teenage talent
Adidas, the second-largest athletic apparel and footwear brand in the world, funded a "black opps" crew that funneled payments to high school basketball players' families so their sons would attend an Adidas-affiliated school. Dramatic testimony from an Adidas bagman-turned government witness at a criminal fraud trial in October ripped the lid off the corruption long suspected in the sport and the footwear companies' role.
Federal prosecutors have yet to issue sentencing recommendations to U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan. But court documents offer new insights into the specific sentences that Gatto, Code and Dawkins could face.
Officials for U.S. probation and pretrial services found that Gatto is in line for a prison sentence of 37 to 46 months, according to a summary of those findings presented by Gatto’s attorneys.
But the probation office found that Gatto should receive a “variance” from standard sentencing guidelines and “recommended a sentence of 12 months,” according to Gatto’s attorneys.
Code, meanwhile, could face 24 to 30 months in prison, according to a summary of the probation office’s findings by his attorneys. But the probation office instead “recommended a sentence of 8 months,” Code’s attorneys wrote.
Court documents do not make clear the range Dawkins could face. But Dawkins’ attorney wrote that the probation office “recommends a sentence of 8 months.”
Gatto was convicted in October of two counts of wire fraud and one count of wire fraud conspiracy. Code and Dawkins were each convicted of one count of wire fraud and one conspiracy charge.
The men were accused of conspiring to pay $100,000 of Adidas’ money to the family of Brian Bowen II to play basketball at the University of Louisville, an Adidas-sponsored college. Gatto also was accused of conspiring with an Adidas consultant, T.J. Gassnola, to pay players at two other Adidas-sponsored schools, North Carolina State and Kansas.
Prosecutors convinced a jury that Gatto, Code and Dawkins defrauded the universities because school officials unknowingly offered athletic scholarships to ineligible players.
As The Oregonian/OregonLive reported this month, Adidas enabled the flow of money to players’ families by approving scores of sham invoices submitted by Gassnola and approved by Gatto. In the span of just two years, Adidas issued payments of more than $1 million to Gassnola, who operated an Adidas-sponsored grassroots program in Massachusetts for high-school all stars. Gassnola cooperated with federal investigators in exchange for leniency. Adidas has not been accused by prosecutors of wrongdoing.
Family and friends of Gatto, Code and Dawkins submitted letters this week urging the federal judge to keep each man out of prison. Gatto, a married father of two who lives in Wilsonville, received testimonials from, among others, a Wilsonville High School basketball coach, a Wilsonville High School athletic director and his former boss at Adidas, Michael Ladinig.
“He took time to help my children learn to dribble, made sure to inquire how their grades were coming along, encouraged them to keep trying when they met with adversity and always smiled and looked them in the eye and expected the same from them,” wrote Ladinig, who no longer works at Adidas. “I consider him a role model and a force of positivity for many who came into contact with him.”
Attorneys for Gatto argued that probation is both sufficient to address his crimes and to deter others in college basketball from following in his footsteps.
“Mr. Gatto’s humiliation has been eagerly reported in virtually every sports-related periodical and television show in the country,” they wrote. “Anyone paying attention has now received the message, loud and clear, that breaking the NCAA’s rules is not a good idea. Mr. Gatto does not need to be incarcerated in order to send that message.”
Federal prosecutors will issue sentencing recommendations for Gatto, Code and Dawkins by Feb. 26.
-- Brad Schmidt
Source : https://www.oregonlive.com/sports/2019/02/adidas-basketball-scandal-convicted-insiders-ask-for-probation-instead-of-prison.html941