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Sports business manager gets year in prison in NCAA scandal

By LARRY NEUMEISTEROctober 3, 2019

NEW YORK (AP) — An aspiring sports business manager convicted of bribery conspiracy in a college basketball scandal that shook amateur athletics was sentenced Thursday to a year and a day in prison as his lawyer promised to continue to fight to clear his name.

Christian Dawkins, 26, of Atlanta, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by Judge Edgardo Ramos.

Unusual legal aspects of the case led Ramos to grant a request to let Dawkins remain free until an appeals court decides whether a May jury verdict convicting him of bribery conspiracy and bribery should be upheld.

He also faces a six-month prison sentence after he was convicted in a related case stemming from the prosecution that revealed that top college coaches and some families of young athletes were paid off to steer NBA-bound athletes to favored handlers. That sentence also will not have to be served until an appeals court rules.

Dawkins’ attorney, Steven A. Haney Sr., said outside court that he will appeal his client’s conviction on numerous grounds, including because college coaches were not permitted to testify as defense witnesses.

“We’re not done fighting,” Haney said. “We don’t look at this as the end.”

Haney said the case also may be viewed differently by a jury in the future as the landscape of college athletics changes. He noted that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill letting players at state schools profit from their image and likeness.

“Everything is changing. It’s evolving. It’s historic,” he said.

Haney said Dawkins faced a harsh outcome compared to others arrested in the case because he refused to cooperate.

“Christian Dawkins was a big fish who didn’t wiggle on the hook,” he said. “It just wasn’t in him to do it. He knew at his age he could walk with his head held high.”

Before he was sentenced, Dawkins sobbed after he said that his “remorse is not for myself but for the pain and embarrassment I’ve caused others.”

He said what he did “wasn’t worth it.”

At trial, Dawkins testified that he never bribed anyone.

Ramos said he concluded Dawkins lied on the witness stand. Still, he granted leniency from the four-to-five years of prison recommended by federal sentencing guidelines. The judge cited inequities in the case that allowed some people to avoid prosecution and he also noted the civil rather than criminal nature of some of the alleged criminal behavior.

Haney said Dawkins is now working to promote musicians after forming a record label.

Merl Code, a former youth basketball coach convicted with Dawkins, was scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

Four former assistant basketball coaches have pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy in the case and several others who were not prosecuted were described by witnesses at the trial of Code and Dawkins as having been interested in receiving them.

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