The defense team in the headline-producing college basketball bribery trial took its turn Friday at questioning the former financial adviser whom the government secretly planted within the sport’s underbelly.
One goal of that cross examination apparently was to bring a new question to the forefront: Exactly who was conning who?
The hoops corruption case centers on two defendants — aspiring agent Christian Dawkins and former Adidas employee Merl Code — and their alleged attempt to bribe college coaches in exchange for influence over players who could be lured to a new sports agency.
One of the coaches identified in the case was Creighton assistant Preston Murphy, who was shown on video in court Thursday picking up an envelope of cash and putting it in his pocket during a 2017 hotel room meeting with Dawkins in Las Vegas. It was a $6,000 bribe, according to the indictment.
But on Friday, the defense team referenced a conversation Dawkins and Murphy had during that same 2017 meeting. Dawkins and Murphy were in the room talking with an undercover FBI agent and Marty Blazer, the government informant who was then still acting as a financial adviser.
And they were all talking about a player who didn’t exist.
According to a published report by ESPN’s Paula Lavigne, Murphy said in the 2017 meeting that he could deliver a potential pro named Marcus Phillips. Creighton did not have a Marcus Phillips on its roster.
Dawkins’ defense attorney, Steve Haney, said during his cross examination of Blazer in the courtroom Friday that after their conversation about the fictitious player, Dawkins and Murphy left the room and laughed together, according to Lavigne’s report.
It would appear that defense attorneys are attempting to raise suspicion among jurors about the actual intent of those involved in this alleged scheme.
Haney wondered aloud Friday if assistant coaches making six figures could really be bribed with a few thousand dollars — and that perhaps Dawkins was just trying to hustle his way into some extra cash, according to Lavigne’s report.
Defense attorneys also argued in pretrial filings that they should be permitted to make claims of entrapment during this case — because they claimed that Dawkins and Code weren’t calling all the shots. The defense wrote in a pretrial motion that the government’s “own undercover agents and cooperating witness solicited Mr. Dawkins’ involvement in a conspiracy they devised to pay bribes to college basketball coaches.”
There will certainly be more twists and turns in this trial, which will continue Monday and could last beyond next week.
Murphy remains suspended from Creighton. He has not been charged with a crime.