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Published: Friday, 5/8/2009

Triplett 'surprised' by charge

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Triplett Triplett
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

A day after he was indicted on charges of point shaving by a federal grand jury, former University of Toledo basketball player Keith Triplett maintained his innocence through his defense attorney.

Six former UT athletes - Triplett, Kashif Payne, Anton Currie, Adam Cuomo, Harvey "Scooter" McDougle and Quinton Broussard - along with Detroit-area businessmen Ghazi "Gary" Manni and Mitchell Karam were charged with conspiracy to commit sports bribery in a 20-count indictment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

"We intend to answer to and vigorously defend [against] the charges," said Triplett's attorney, Ray Richards.

Now playing basketball in Germany, Triplett was unavailable for comment, but Richards said the Bowsher graduate was surprised to see he was named in the indictment.

"The indictment as a whole is pretty large in scope, [and] it has very little, from what I observed, to do with Mr. Triplett," said Richards, who is based in Detroit.

"For the longest time, it was a situation where so many people were named and there were so many different stories. I think it was a situation where everybody was standing pat to see what was going to happen, because there were so many rumors out there."

Mr. Triplett previously had told The Blade that he met Manni in 2004 through a local friend who "didn't even play sports."

He said he and Manni talked about "street [stuff]" and not about sports.

Triplett said many other UT athletes knew Manni as well, but said he was never approached by Manni to shave points.

Richards reaffirmed that statement yesterday.

"I really wouldn't characterize [their interaction] as a relationship," said Richards, who has represented Triplett since June, 2008.

"[Manni] was a contact. It's a situation where a well-known and very talented basketball player - and I'm sure [this happens with] every talented athlete - comes into contact with people one way or another. The relationship issue is another issue.

"I don't think you can characterize [Triplett] having knowledge of or knowing [Manni] as being a relationship."

Triplett last played for UT during the 2004-05 season and finished his career with 1,814 points, the third most in school history.

Triplett rejected a potential plea agreement by federal authorities in December, 2007, according to his attorney at the time, Ethan Vinson.

Vinson said federal agents asked him if Triplett would accept a plea deal, but would not disclose what charge he would plead to or what legal action might be taken against him if he refused.

Richards said yesterday he has not been approached by anyone from the U.S. Attorney's office to discuss a potential plea agreement on the point-shaving charges filed Wednesday.

"It's still early, this is a work in progress," said Richards, who added that he has been in contact with the U.S. Attorney's Office to discuss a date for Triplett's voluntary surrender to authorities.

After the conclusion of a town hall meeting yesterday, UT President Lloyd Jacobs told The Blade that the school had fully cooperated with the U.S. Department of Justice on the point-shaving investigation.

The fact that indictments were issued did not surprise him, although he didn't necessarily expect to learn there would be six former UT athletes named as defendants or know enough to predict their specific charges.

"My main emotion is disappointment," Jacobs said.

He opened the address on the Health Science Campus by briefly addressing the point-shaving allegations.

"I believe in you," Jacobs told about 10 members of the athletic department, including UT basketball coach Gene Cross, among 70 people seated in the audience.

"Don't think I am in any way condoning or blowing by or whitewashing any of the behaviors that are alleged," Jacobs said. "[But] nothing in the past two years has changed my mind.

"I believe in you," he concluded. "I've said it three times now."

Blade staff writer Tom Henry contributed to this report.

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com.



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