On July 27, 2018, Chuck Connors Person, a former NBA player and former Auburn University assistant coach, asked the court, once again, to dismiss the government’s charges against him. According to Person’s memorandum, “the government filed a superseding indictment, which abandoned the original wire fraud conspiracy theory and presented an entirely different wire fraud charge against Person. However, the superseding indictment did not fix any of the problems of the original indictment and, according to Person, the government “failed to advance any persuasive arguments … that its federal criminal charges against Person are viable.”
As we have previously covered, in September 2017, Person, and several others, were indicted in the NCAA Bribery Scandal. The scandal involved four NCAA assistant basketball coaches who allegedly solicited and accepted bribes from financial advisers and in return promised to persuade players to send business to those financial advisers once the players turned professional. Person is accused of accepting a total of $91,500 and passing on $18,500 to the families of two athletes. Allegedly, Person told one player, “[t]he most important part is that you … don’t say nothing to anybody … don’t share with your sisters, don’t share with any of the teammates, that’s very important cause this is a violation … of rules. But this is how the NBA players get it done.” Another part of the scandal involved a scheme where money was secretly funnel from Adidas to NCAA athletes and their families in exchange for the players’ commitments to play at Adidas-sponsored programs. Person plead not guilty to all of the charges in November.
According to his memorandum, “vindication of these NCAA rules is the province of the NCAA, a private member organization, and is not a proper purpose of a federal criminal prosecution.” Here the government is alleging that the “NCAA rule violation [was] a federal crime, without any conceivable federal interest at stake in doing so, the government has concocted unworkable legal theories that lack any basis in the statutory language and exceed the constraints of due process.” Person continued, “[t]he federal government has no business policing the NCAA rules.”
Person advanced three arguments in his memorandum, first, he claimed that it is not federal wire fraud to violate the NCAA rules and then fail to disclose that violation. Second, Person argued that a payment in violation of the NCAA rules is not honest service fraud. Third, Person argued that taking a referral fee – even if that payment violates the NCAA rules – cannot be considered federal funds bribery. Fourth, a scheme to pay referral fees in violation of the NCAA rules is not a travel act conspiracy.