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Dawkins, Code convicted in college hoops trial

A federal jury in New York on Wednesday convicted aspiring agent Christian Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code for their roles in bribing basketball assistant coaches to influence their players to sign with Dawkins' new sports management company and certain financial advisers once they turned pro.

A jury deliberated for parts of three days before convicting Code and Dawkins. Dawkins was found guilty of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery, and Code was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery. Dawkins had been facing six total charges and Code four.

"[While the convictions of Dawkins and Code] mark the culmination of the criminal charges announced by this Office in September 2017," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement Wednesday, "they should also make clear to those who might be tempted to engage in the sort of misconduct these prosecutions have only begun to expose: that bribery is a crime, one this Office is prepared to charge criminally and prosecute to the full extent on the law."

U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos will sentence Code and Dawkins at a later date.

Dawkins and Code had been accused of facilitating bribes of thousands of dollars to three former assistant coaches: Tony Bland of USC, Emanuel "Book" Richardson of Arizona and Lamont Evans of South Carolina and Oklahoma State.

Steve Haney, Dawkins' attorney, said his client was found guilty of conspiring to bribe and bribing Evans. The jury found him not guilty of bribery charges related to Bland and Richardson.

"We felt the jury spoke," Haney said. "The jury believed the universities were not deprived of their honest services. They essentially believed the universities were not victims. It would have been nice to walk out of there not guilty on everything, but that was unrealistic given the amount of evidence. We had a fair trial."

Each of the former assistant coaches pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery. They are scheduled for sentencing later this month.

Leaving court, Dawkins said he could have chosen to cooperate with prosecutors and identified coaches he knew were willing to funnel money to top athletes.

"I could have," he said. "Anybody who's paying players to me is a good guy. I think the whole case is B.S., so I wouldn't have cooperated."

Haney spoke with pride of Dawkins.

"He could have brought the whole world of college athletics to its knees and he chose not to," the lawyer said. "He was asked repeatedly by the government to cooperate. He said, 'I'm not going to give you the names of 15 to 20 coaches.' Today he leaves this courthouse winning four of six [counts]."

Outside the Manhattan federal court, Code said: "There was no evidence at any point in the trial that I bribed anybody."

Attorneys for Code and Dawkins had argued during a two-week trial that their clients set up meetings with coaches only at the request of an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as an investor into Dawkins' fledgling company.

On the wiretapped recordings played during the trial, Dawkins is heard telling Jeff D'Angelo, the pseudonym for the undercover FBI agent, that he didn't think paying assistant coaches was a good way to build their business.

"It's not the end-all, be-all, in my opinion," Dawkins said on one recording.

"By the time those kids get to college, the deals are usually already done," Dawkins said during defense questioning. "There's no need to pay a college coach because those players are coming to college with agents. The idea that it's an amateur world is not real."

Dawkins testified that he didn't think college coaches had much influence over players, but D'Angelo pushed the issue.

"But here's the model," D'Angelo said on one recording. "Like ... I'm funding you, your side of the business, and I'm staying out of your way. And you're gonna do that."

"Just to pay guys just for the sake of paying the guy, because he's at a school, that doesn't make sense," Dawkins testified. "[D'Angelo] is basically saying, 'You're going to introduce me to coaches that I can pay or I'm not going to fund you.'"

The government played multiple wiretapped recordings of Dawkins discussing money with coaches and showed undercover surveillance video from a meeting in Las Vegas between Dawkins, D'Angelo, fellow undercover agent Jill Bailey (also a pseudonym) and a parade of assistant coaches. The video showed Dawkins giving envelopes of cash to multiple college basketball assistant coaches during that meeting.

Federal prosecutor Robert Boone explained during the government's final rebuttal that Dawkins' disagreement with D'Angelo's plan to bribe coaches did not indicate that Dawkins and Code had no interest in bribing coaches, but rather that Dawkins wanted to do it a different way.

"He wanted to pay college coaches. He just wanted to be smart about it," Boone told the jury.

It's the second time Code and Dawkins have been convicted in a federal criminal trial in Manhattan on charges related to alleged corruption in college basketball.

In October, a jury convicted Code, Dawkins and former Adidas executive James Gatto on conspiracy and fraud charges for their roles in a pay-for-play scheme to steer top recruits to Adidas-sponsored schools, including Kansas, Louisville and NC State.

U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan sentenced Gatto to nine months in federal prison; Code and Dawkins were each sentenced to six months.

Former NBA referee Rashan Michel, the lone remaining defendant in the third federal criminal trial involving alleged college basketball corruption, accepted a plea deal with prosecutors Tuesday on a charge of bribery conspiracy. He faces a maximum prison term of five years, but the plea agreement Michel signed with prosecutors recommends a sentence of 12-18 months in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Former Auburn assistant Chuck Person pleaded guilty in March to accepting about $91,500 in bribes to influence his players to sign with certain financial advisers once they turned pro. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9 and faces up to two and a half years in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.