Coaches oppose lawsuits against gangs

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BOSTON – Lawyers for former college coaches, a former college athletics official and other defendants said their clients had no relationship or knowledge of each other’s actions in a vast criminal company led by Rick Singer.

Their arguments came in a series of motions filed this week calling for the dismissal of racketeering charges in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal.

A lawyer for Donna Heinel, former senior associate athletic director at the University of Southern California, wrote in a memorandum that each defendant’s actions were “silos,” “parallel” and “uncoordinated,” justifying the government’s dismissal . Other lawyers joined his request.

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In March, prosecutors indicted coaches and other alleged co-conspirators of Singer, the mastermind of the scheme, under the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, in the same indictment. Singer, an academic consultant, led a front called the Key Worldwide Foundation.

The Justice Department has historically used RICO to prosecute Mafia and other organized gang activity. In the admissions case, defense attorneys countered that their clients’ coordination was limited to Singer, not between them, making the case an “unprecedented attempt by the government to dramatically expand enforcement of the law. RICO law “.

“At most, the indictment allegations establish a ‘star’ structure with Singer occupying the hub and Heinel and the other co-accused as spokes, with no common edge connecting the individual spokes together,” Nina Marino, Heinel’s lawyer wrote. “Although every defendant has worked with Singer, nothing connects every defendant with the others.”

She said: “The separate and unconnected spokes are insufficient for a RICO Conspiracy – the connection with the hub is not sufficient, there has to be a rim.”

Lawyers representing Jovan Vavic, former water polo coach at USC, and Niki Williams, former test administrator for ACT and SAT, have filed their own motions to dismiss and also joined Heinel’s petition. Former Wake Forest University volleyball coach William Ferguson and former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Erst have joined the other defendants’ motions.

A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office declined to comment on the filed documents. The government has until November 19 to respond in court.

Heinel and the coaches are accused of accepting bribes from Singer to label children of parents who contributed to Singer’s program as athletic recruits to get them into college. Williams is accused of accepting bribes from Singer to help facilitate a test cheat plot in which someone corrected college entrance test answers for students whose parents have paid Singer.

Marino wrote that there was “no common goal” between the recruiting and testing programs, arguing that the alleged actions of all defendants were carried out individually.

“At best, the indictment alleges that individuals shared the common goal of getting students to a university – in the singular,” his memo reads. “The alleged actions of the defendants in this case have been siled and not carried out for the continuing unit of Key Enterprise.”

Gordon Ernst, a former Georgetown tennis coach, leaves Boston federal court after being indicted in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal on March 25.

None of the defendants were aware of the actions of the others, the note continued, including Heinel and Laura Janke, a former USC women’s football assistant coach who pleaded guilty to helping set up bogus sports rookies. for Singer customers.

“There is no claim, for example, that Heinel agreed or knew that Janke was preparing fake sports profiles for students or facilitating student-athlete admissions to Stanford University, the USC or Yale, ”the court document reads. Likewise, Gordon Ernst, Georgetown University’s head tennis coach, has no alleged intention of admitting athletes recruited from Yale University, USC, University of California Los Angeles. , Wake Forest University, Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, or University of San Diego. “

Prosecutors alleged that the Singer operation represented a business based on the association of co-conspirators as opposed to their membership in a legal entity. Defense attorneys said the government, in singling out a “racketeering activity pattern” among defendants, failed to show how individual defendants function as a single unit.

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Janke, former USC women’s football coach Ali Khosroshahin, Singer accountant Steven Masera and ACT / SAT testing administrator Igor Dvorskiy are charged with racketeering in the same indictment. All four have pleaded guilty in agreements with prosecutors. They are awaiting their conviction.

In all, 24 people out of 52 indicted in the “Varsity Blues” scandal pleaded guilty to federal crimes. Nine parents, including actress Felicity Huffman, and a trainer, former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, have been convicted by a judge for their crimes.

On Wednesday, Marjorie Klapper, a jewelry designer from Menlo Park, Calif., Was sentenced to three weeks in prison for paying Singer $ 15,000 to have someone fix her son’s ACT test.

Nineteen parents, including the actress Lori Loughlin, are battling charges as part of the college admissions program, and defense attorneys review millions of pages of government-handed evidence. A deadline for filing their dismissal motions will not be set until January, pushing possible trials until 2020.

Contact Joey Garrison on Twitter @Joeygarrison.


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