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Dawkins testimony: Not a crime to pay players

NEW YORK -- Aspiring sports business manager Christian Dawkins, who is accused of bribing college basketball coaches to influence their players to sign with his new agency, testified on Thursday that he had a good relationship with Arizona coach Sean Miller and didn't need to pay then-assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson to get Wildcats players as clients.

While being questioned by Mark Moore, one of co-defendant Merl Code's attorneys, Dawkins said he had a "pretty good" relationship with Miller.

"You don't think it's a crime to pay players, do you?" Moore asked.

"No," Dawkins answered. "You can't defraud a school. I don't even know how that's possible. ... It's ridiculous."

Moore referred to a specific wiretap recording introduced into evidence by prosecutors and asked Dawkins if it contained a discussion about Miller paying players.

"Yes," Dawkins answered.

When Moore asked Dawkins if Miller knew "what was going on" with alleged payments to Arizona players, federal prosecutor Robert Boone objected before Dawkins could answer.

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday played a recording of a phone call in which Richardson told Dawkins that Miller was paying star center Deandre Ayton $10,000 per month while he was enrolled at the school.

Last week, federal prosecutors played a surveillance recording of a meeting on June 6, 2017, in which Dawkins talks about Ayton and says Miller told him, "I'm taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I'll turn everything over to you."

Former financial adviser Marty Blazer, a cooperating witness for the government, was present at the June 2017 meeting and testified last week that the reference was about Miller "taking care" of payments for Ayton.

During a contentious cross-examination Thursday, Boone attempted to portray Dawkins as a hustler and con man who had previously been accused of charging about $42,000 in Uber costs to an NBA player's credit card, which caused the NBA Players Association to send a letter about Dawkins to its members and agents.

Dawkins, who was working for agent Andy Miller at the time, previously testified that several people at ASM Sports were using his Uber account, and that the player was reimbursed.

In October, Code, Dawkins and Adidas executive James Gatto were convicted of federal criminal charges related to a pay-for-play scheme to steer recruits to Adidas-sponsored schools, including Kansas, Louisville and NC State.

When Boone asked Dawkins if he was aware it was against NCAA rules to solicit $100,000 from Adidas to ensure that recruit Brian Bowen signed with Louisville, Dawkins replied, "Everything is a violation of NCAA rules."

At one point, Boone asked Dawkins if he'd paid moms, dads, brothers and second cousins while recruiting high school and college players as clients.

"Have you paid neighbors?" Boone asked. "Have you paid a school bus driver to get a player? Have you paid a cafeteria lady to get a player?"

Dawkins testified Wednesday that he didn't think bribing college coaches was a smart investment, and said he was pressured to do so by Jeff D'Angelo, the pseudonym for an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor.

"I didn't think paying anybody to introduce coaches to Jeff was a smart investment, not even me," Dawkins testified. "It's just wasting money. It was stupid."

But on Thursday, prosecutors played a surveillance recording from March 2016, when Dawkins traveled from Atlanta to Columbia, South Carolina, with alleged co-conspirator Munish Sood and Blazer to meet with then-Gamecocks assistant Lamont Evans about future NBA player PJ Dozier.

Evans pleaded guilty in January to one bribery count and is awaiting sentencing.

During the recording, Dawkins told the men, "You need to be in bed with somebody like [Evans] now, so you can get complete access to a kid."

Prosecutors also played audio recordings from a June 6, 2017, meeting on a yacht in Battery Park in New York, where Dawkins, D'Angelo and Sood signed an agreement to launch their new company, Loyd Management.

During that meeting, they talked about being introduced to coaches in Las Vegas, where most college basketball coaches would be attending a grassroots tournament.

"Yeah, we'll do it at a hotel suite or something like that, and just have them come through one at a time," Dawkins said. "And then the other ones don't need to know about each other.

"We want them all to feel special, like we're only doing this for you."

Prosecutors are scheduled to make their closing arguments on Friday, followed by defense attorneys on Monday.