The attorney for a former University of Toledo basketball star said his client was offered and refused a potential plea agreement by federal authorities.
But whether the plea offer made to Keith Triplett was a result of an ongoing investigation into point shaving at UT was unclear, according to Mr. Triplett s attorney, Ethan Vinson.
Mr. Vinson, based in Livonia, Mich., said he was retained as Mr. Triplett s legal representation shortly after a Rockets football player was charged for his role in an alleged point-shaving scheme in March.
Mr. Vinson said federal agents asked him if Mr. 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.
If that s the allegation, point shaving, that s news to me, Mr. Vinson told The Blade yesterday. The feds have been playing this one very close to the vest. Maybe they re trying to maintain an element of surprise, I guess.
Harvey Scooter McDougle, Jr., a former running back on the Rockets football team, was the lone person charged with conspiring to fix the outcomes of UT football and men s basketball games. Those charges were dropped in April, but federal authorities have maintained the investigation is ongoing.
It now appears the inquiry has expanded to include a heightened emphasis on the UT basketball team.
In addition to federal agents interaction with Mr. Triplett s attorney Mr. Vinson said his client was also asked in the last two months to provide a fingerprint sample, but couldn t because he s playing professional basketball in Romania at least one other former basketball player appeared before a federal grand jury in Detroit.
A parent of one former UT basketball player told The Blade his son appeared before a grand jury earlier this fall, and was told by authorities that at least two other former players also testified.
Mr. Vinson said Mr. Triplett did not engage in point shaving during his career at UT which ended with the 2004-05 season but thinks federal agents are pursuing his client because of his relationship with a Detroit-area gambler linked to the Rockets point-shaving scandal.
The FBI said Ghazi Gary Manni, of Sterling Heights, Mich., conspired with Mr. McDougle in a scheme to affect point margins of UT football and basketball games.
A federal affidavit, filed March 29, stated Mr. Manni provided players cash, cars, and entertainment at Detroit casinos in exchange for their cooperation with shaving points in a conspiracy that began in the fall of 2003.
In a previous interview with The Blade, Mr. Manni described relationships with many UT athletes in which he socialized with them, gave them small gifts, and spoke with them about their upcoming games, but emphatically denied that those relationships involved point shaving.
Mr. Triplett is a Bowsher High School graduate. He scored 1,814 points for UT, the third-most in school history.
Mr. Triplett previously told The Blade that he and many other UT athletes knew Mr. Manni, but said he was never approached by the gambler to shave points.
Mr. Triplett said he met Mr. Manni about three years ago through a local friend who didn t even play sports. He said he and Mr. Manni talked about street [stuff] and not about sports.
Records show that Mr. Triplett was a refuse collector for the city of Toledo as late as August, but he now plays for CSU Atlassib Sibiu, a team in Romania s top-tier professional league.
Mr. Vinson said he s been representing Mr. Triplett for several months as a result of the federal investigation. Mr. Vinson also said his law firm, Cummings McClorey Davis & Acho, PLC, represents Mr. Manni on civil matters not related to the federal point-shaving investigation.
Gina Balaya, of the U.S. attorney s office in Detroit, said he had no comment on any of Mr. Vinson s statements, and would only say the investigation is ongoing.
Mr. McDougle the only UT athlete named in the federal point-shaving affidavit would have been a senior on the 2006-07 Rockets football team. He was suspended from the program almost immediately after news broke about the charges against him and was never reinstated.
University officials said Mr. McDougle s status with the team would be re-evaluated after the federal investigation concluded.
Last summer Mr. McDougle said he was on pace to graduate this month, but yesterday his father said he had to drop out of school this fall for financial reasons because his athletic scholarship wasn t renewed by UT. Harvey McDougle, Sr., said his son would re-enroll and graduate this spring.
Larry Burns, UT s vice president for marketing, communications, and enrollment services, said Mr. McDougle was notified last summer that his scholarship would not be renewed.
Contact Joe Vardon at: email@example.com or 419-410-5055.