NEW YORK -- A jury on Wednesday convicted the three men charged in the first of three federal criminal trials involving pay-for-play schemes in college basketball, which are the culmination of the government's two-year, clandestine investigation into payoffs, bribes and other corruption in the sport.
Adidas employee James Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for NBA agent Andy Miller, were found guilty of felony wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for facilitating payments from the shoe company to the families of high-profile recruits to influence them to attend Adidas-sponsored schools.
Attorneys involved in the case told ESPN that each of the three men might be facing two or four years in federal prison when U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan sentences them on March 5.
Former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola, who pleaded guilty in April to a felony charge related to the pay-for-play scheme and was a cooperating witness for prosecutors, is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 1.
Munish Sood, a financial adviser, pleaded guilty in August to three felonies and also testified for the government. He will be sentenced at a later date.
The lingering question from USA vs. Gatto, et al, at least for college basketball, is where does the federal government's investigation go from here?
There are two other federal cases scheduled for trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan early next year, with different judges in each case.
Former Auburn assistant Chuck Person and former NBA referee Rashan Michel are scheduled for trial on Feb. 4. Person is charged with six federal crimes involving bribes, conspiracy and wire fraud. He is accused of accepting $91,500 in bribes from Marty Blazer, a federal cooperating witness, to influence Auburn players to sign with Blazer's financial services firm once they turned pro.
Wiley and Purifoy were ruled ineligible for the 2017-18 season. Both players are eligible to play this coming season; Purifoy will have to sit out 30 percent of the regular season.
In April, three former assistant coaches -- Arizona's Emanuel "Book" Richardson, Oklahoma State's Lamont Evans and USC's Tony Bland -- are scheduled for trial. They are accused of accepting bribes from Blazer, Code and Dawkins to influence their players to sign with Blazer's firm and Dawkins' fledgling sports agency.
Code and Dawkins are accused of conspiracy and paying bribes in the April case.
Federal prosecutors allege that Evans took at least $22,000 in bribes while coaching at South Carolina and Oklahoma State. Richardson is accused of taking at least $20,000, and Bland is accused of accepting at least $13,000.
What does Wednesday's verdict mean for the other cases?
Defense attorneys involved in the cases were stunned by Wednesday's guilty verdicts.
Attorneys for Code, Dawkins and Gatto admitted during opening arguments and throughout the trial that their clients broke several NCAA rules and indeed arranged for payments to be made to the families of high-profile recruits.
But the attorneys also argued that while the defendants knowingly broke NCAA rules, they never believed they were breaking federal laws. The attorneys told the jury that their clients were only trying to help the schools by assisting them in signing talented basketball players and never intended to defraud them, as federal prosecutors alleged.
In fact, their attorneys argued that the payments were often made at the request of the university's coaches.
Make no mistake: The verdicts were a major victory for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. And the jury's decision sent a message that was loud and clear to the defendants in the other two cases. Attorneys involved in those cases are weighing whether to fight the felony criminal charges in court or try to negotiate plea agreements for their clients.
Will federal prosecutors, perhaps buoyed by convictions in the initial case, expand their investigation? Attorneys involved in the cases believe the government might file a superseding indictment with additional allegations involving more schools and coaches before the final case goes to trial in Manhattan in April.
Will even more of college basketball's dirty laundry be exposed?
People involved in the cases have told ESPN over the past several months that the federal government possesses even more damaging evidence from recorded telephone conversations, interviews with cooperating witnesses, emails and text messages that might drag more high-profile programs and coaches into the mess.
Only a handful of calls from thousands of hours of conversations that were recorded via federal wiretaps were introduced into evidence during the Gatto trial. Defense attorneys tried to introduce at least seven additional calls that they say involved coaches asking the defendants for help in recruiting, but Kaplan wouldn't allow them into evidence and ruled they weren't relevant to that particular case.
For instance, defense attorneys tried to introduce a recorded conversation between Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend and Code, in which they discussed what top recruit Zion Williamson's family would need for Williamson to sign with the Jayhawks. There was another call between LSU coach Will Wade and Christian Dawkins, in which they discussed 2019 recruit Balsa Koprivica. Attorneys read from transcripts of the calls -- without the jury present -- and neither call was introduced into evidence.
Will U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos, who is scheduled to oversee the April trial, allow more of that type of information into evidence?
If defendants in the later cases, such as Code, Dawkins or Richardson, accept plea agreements and become cooperating witnesses for the government, there could be a lot more collateral damage before it's all said and done.
When does the NCAA get involved in the mess?
It might be quite a while before the NCAA starts investigating the salacious allegations that were revealed through testimony and evidence during the Gatto trial.
Since 10 men were initially arrested in September 2017, the federal government has told NCAA officials to stand down until its investigation and criminal cases are complete.
"We now know these three individuals charged with corruption in college basketball broke federal laws," the NCAA said in a statement provided to ESPN. "As these are the first verdicts in a series of corruption cases, we will continue to review any relevant information about potential NCAA violations. Due to rules put in place by our membership, we will have no further comment about potential infractions cases."
Gatto's attorney, Michael Schachter, indicated Wednesday that he intends to appeal the guilty verdict; attorneys representing Code and Dawkins are weighing their options as well.
The evidence federal prosecutors accumulated during their clandestine investigation will likely remain under protective order until at least the conclusion of April's trial. A U.S. Justice Department spokesperson told ESPN on Thursday that wiretap recordings and other material that isn't introduced into evidence in the three trials will remain under federal seal "in perpetuity."
What about the schools and coaches that were named in the Gatto trial?
Shortly before Wednesday's verdicts, Kansas indefinitely suspended sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa while it conducts an internal review of his eligibility.
Other than that, it seems to be business as usual in college basketball, despite allegations of pay-for-play schemes involving Arizona, Creighton, DePaul, LSU, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Oregon and others.
Text messages and phone records introduced by prosecutors and defense attorneys suggested Kansas coach Bill Self and Townsend were at least aware that Gassnola was involved in the Jayhawks' recruitment of De Sousa.
Gassnola, a former AAU director from Springfield, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in April to his role in the pay-for-play schemes involving De Sousa, former Kansas player Billy Preston and former NC State star Dennis Smith Jr.
Financial records from Adidas showed that the sneaker company paid Gassnola and his Adidas-sponsored youth basketball program, New England Playaz, more than $1 million between December 2015 and August 2017.
Gassnola testified that he provided $90,000 to Preston's mother, Nicole Player, and also agreed to pay $20,000 to De Sousa's guardian, Fenny Falmagne, to ensure they signed with the Jayhawks. Gassnola said Falmagne needed the money to help him get "out from under" a $60,000 deal to send De Sousa to Maryland.
De Sousa, a native of Angola who played at IMG Academy in Florida, enrolled at Kansas in December 2017. He played in 20 games last season, helping the Jayhawks win a Big 12 regular-season title and reach the NCAA Final Four.
Preston never played in a game for the Jayhawks last season. He was indefinitely suspended while the school investigated the ownership of a car he wrecked on campus.
Brian White, general counsel and vice chancellor for legal affairs at Kansas, attended nearly every day of court in New York. Two other attorneys joined him for closing arguments last week.
On Wednesday night, shortly after the verdicts in the Gatto case, Self denied that he and his staff have ever used improper benefits to induce recruits to Kansas.
"When recruiting prospective student-athletes, my staff and I have not and do not offer improper inducements to them or their families to influence their college decision, nor are we aware of any third-party involvement to do so," Self read from a statement.
Self said he also didn't expect any coach on his staff to face reprimands, suspensions or dismissals as a result of the trial or FBI investigation.
"I have total confidence in all members of my staff, including [Townsend], and feel as strongly about that today as I did five, 10, 15 years ago," Self said.
Kansas isn't the only program that might be in hot water with the NCAA. Former Louisville prospect Brian "Tugs" Bowen Jr.'s father, Brian Bowen Sr., testified that assistant coaches at several schools had offered improper benefits to influence his son to sign. Bowen Sr. agreed to accept $100,000 from Adidas for his son to sign with the Cardinals.
Bowen Sr. told the jury that the illicit offers were made to him through Dawkins. According to Bowen Sr., Dawkins advised him of a $50,000 offer from Arizona, $150,000 from Oklahoma State (plus $80,000 for a car and money for a house) and $100,000 from Creighton. Dawkins told him that Texas would help with housing.
Other evidence alleged DePaul made a $200,000 offer for Bowen, and Oregon had offered an "astronomical amount of money," according to one of Gatto's attorneys, Casey Donnelly.
Bowen Sr. also testified that former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson gave him $1,300 for rent after his son chose the Cardinals. Louisville's basketball program was on NCAA probation as a result of the "Strippergate" scandal when the payment was allegedly made. Johnson is currently an assistant at La Salle.
Donnelly also alleged during her opening argument that Arizona was prepared to offer $150,000 for five-star recruit Nassir Little, who signed with North Carolina. Gassnola testified that he also paid former Arizona star Deandre Ayton's family $15,000 while he was in high school.