An attorney for an aspiring sports business manager convicted in the college basketball bribery case asked a judge for a new trial after a former FBI agent admitted to gambling with $13,500 in government money at a Las Vegas casino at the time of a key sting operation in the investigation.
Christian Dawkins, who was convicted in October 2018 and April 2019 trials on charges in connection with bribing players, their families and college coaches, is scheduled to begin his prison term Tuesday, according to court filings. His attorney, Steven Haney, argued in the motion filed Monday that the FBI agent's admission of wrongdoing compromised the case and should prompt a new trial.
New York City-based FBI special agent Scott Carpenter, 40, last week pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of conversion of government money. His sentencing is scheduled for May 18, when he faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison, supervised release and restitution.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Nevada, Carpenter and three other FBI agents traveled to Las Vegas to conduct an undercover operation July 27-31, 2017.
"At the conclusion of the operation, Carpenter went to a casino's high limit room, where he gambled on blackjack with $13,500 belonging to the United States," the office's news release states.
During that sting, undercover FBI agents posing as investors in Dawkins' fledgling sports agency were set up in a luxury hotel room at the Cosmopolitan hotel. There, a parade of assistant college basketball coaches invited by Dawkins and co-defendant and former Adidas consultant Merl Code discussed delivering players for cash, with some taking money directly from the undercover agent.
When the bribery case went to trial, the government tried to limit what defense attorneys could say or ask about a "rogue" undercover FBI agent, who at the time was accused of misappropriating federal money.
The U.S. Attorney's Office never confirmed specifics of the incident or the agent's name to ESPN, and sources close to the case repeatedly brushed off any assertion that the agent's behavior had a bearing on the evidence used to convict Dawkins, Code, Adidas executive James Gatto and four college assistant basketball coaches. Judges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refused to compel details or allow questioning of the agent in court proceedings.
The government argued at the time that any alleged improper conduct happened at times and places unrelated to the investigation.
Defense attorneys still tried to raise the issue during the trials, with Haney in May 2019 once asking the jury to consider why a key undercover agent -- who went by the pseudonym Jeff D'Angelo -- was "glaringly absent from the government's case," prompting the U.S. attorney to raise an objection, which U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos sustained.
In Haney's motion filed Monday before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, he wrote, "Certainly one would be naive to believe such lack of professional control was limited to ingesting a hot dog and a coke, or playing a penny slot with taxpayer dollars, but despite requests for specifics, the Government steadfastly refused to disclose the breadth of the FBI agents' gluttony, or provide any information other than vague generalities, which they couched as 'alleged misconduct.'"
He said the defense should be allowed to know if the agent's "rampant dishonesty in Las Vegas was limited to self-indulgence, or did it logically spill over into the material acts of the FBI used by the Government to prosecute this matter."
The motion also notes that Carpenter was allowed to plea to a misdemeanor -- versus the defendants who wound up with felony convictions -- and posits whether "the misdemeanor offering was gifted with conditions, or just the Government taking care of its own in a sense of misplaced justice."
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York declined to comment.
Federal appeals courts have upheld Dawkins' convictions, and in December, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a petition to review them. In his motion, Haney acknowledged the high bar needed to grant a new trial but said the new evidence in this case should warrant one, especially because the jury found Dawkins not guilty on four of the six counts charged in the 2019 trial.
"To turn a blind eye to these new developments, not known at the time of trial, would be manifestly unjust to a man convicted without the opportunity to cross examine an FBI agent convicted of crimes directly associated and concurrent to the performance of his investigative duties," Haney wrote.
ESPN's Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.