A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced the three men convicted of pay-for-play schemes to steer high-profile recruits to Adidas-sponsored college basketball programs to multiple months in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan sentenced former Adidas executive James Gatto to nine months in federal prison, former Adidas consultant Merl Code to six months and aspiring sports business manager Christian Dawkins to six months.
In October, a federal jury in New York convicted the three men of felony charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud after a three-week criminal trial. They were accused of funneling money from Adidas to the families of high-profile recruits to ensure they signed with the sneaker company and certain financial planners and business managers once the players turned pro.
Steven Haney, Dawkins’ attorney, said all three men were released on appeal bonds Tuesday and all three plan to appeal their convictions.
The defendants’ attorneys had argued for noncustodial sentences.
“It is in many respects unprecedented in its sophistication, in its coordination, and with respect to Mr. Gatto in particular, in its repetitive nature over a period of time,” Assistant U.S Attorney Edward Diskant said Tuesday.
Kaplan said he sympathized with the argument that the defendants were being punished when others who did similar things were not being prosecuted. Nonetheless, he said, “These defendants all knew what they were doing was wrong.”
The judge added that he wanted to send “a great big warning light to the basketball world.”
“I deeply regret my actions,” Gatto said in a shaky voice.
Dawkins referenced “social dysfunction” in college basketball and said his actions were “clouded” by a “system that takes advantage of kids.”
“I realize now more than ever none of this was worth it,” Dawkins said.
Code said he also regretted his actions but added, “Some things really got to be changed about college basketball.”
Among other allegations, the men were accused of conspiring to pay $100,000 from Adidas to Brian “Tugs” Bowen’s father to influence Bowen to sign with Louisville in the summer of 2017.
Gatto, the sneaker company’s former director of global sports marketing for basketball, also was accused of conspiring with former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola to pay $90,000 to former Kansas prospect Billy Preston’s mother and $20,000 to current Jayhawks player Silvio De Sousa‘s guardian.
Gassnola testified during the trial that he also gave former NC State assistant Orlando Early $40,000 to secure the commitment of former Wolfpack star Dennis Smith Jr. after Gatto approved the payment.
The government was attempting to recoup more than $1.1 million for Kansas, more than $250,000 for NC State and nearly $32,000 for Louisville to reimburse the schools for scholarships and legal fees related to the scandal.
The defendants’ attorneys argued throughout the trial that their clients intended to help the universities by assisting them in signing talented basketball recruits and never intended to harm the schools, as federal prosecutors alleged.
During closing arguments, Michael Schachter, one of Gatto’s attorneys, told the jury that his client approved the payments to players’ families at the request of coaches, including Kansas’ Bill Self.
Schachter also said former Louisville coach Rick Pitino was aware of payments to Bowen’s father.
Code and Dawkins are scheduled for a second trial at U.S. District Court in Manhattan on April 22 in a separate case involving alleged college basketball corruption.
Code and Dawkins are accused of bribing three former assistant coaches — Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson, USC’s Tony Bland and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans — to steer their players to Dawkins’ fledgling sports agency and financial planners once they turned pro.
The three assistant coaches have reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors. It is unclear whether they will testify for the federal government.
Haney notified Arizona’s Sean Miller and LSU’s Will Wade last month that he intends to subpoena them to testify in the April trial.
“The sentencing has nothing to do with April,” Haney said. “We have a case to defend and feel strongly about our position. We’re 1,000 percent not backing down.”
Haney said he plans to call as many coaches as needed in April’s trial. “Whatever it takes, this will be a different fight,” Haney said.
Former Auburn assistant Chuck Person and former NBA referee Rashan Michel are scheduled for trial in June. Person is accused of accepting $91,500 in bribes from a federal cooperating witness to influence Auburn players to sign with financial advisers and agents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.