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Published: Thursday, 12/9/2010

4 former UT althetes to enter guilty pleas in point-fixing case, prosecutors say

Assistant U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin said attorneys for former UT football players Harvey "Scooter" McDougle, Adam Cuomo, Quinton Broussard, and former Rockets basketball player Anton Currie revealed during a federal court proceeding in Detroit Wednesday that their clients had signed or will soon sign plea agreements.

The men, along with former UT basketball players Kashif Payne and Keith Triplett — as well as Detroit-area gamblers Ghazi “Gary” Manni and Mitchell Karam — were charged in a conspiracy to influence UT sporting contests by bribery for a period of over two years beginning in December, 2004.

On May 6, 2009, an indictment handed down by a grand jury accused Manni and Mr. Karam of paying money and providing other things of value to the Rockets' athletes to influence the outcome of games. The men would then bet on those games — including $407,500 on UT basketball games from November, 2005, to December, 2006.

Ms. Mohsin declined to disclose what Mr. McDougle, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Broussard, and Mr. Currie will plead guilty to and said no court date had been set for them to enter their pleas. Attorneys for the men could not be reached for comment, but Mr. McDougle's father, Harvey McDougle, Sr., told The Blade that his son pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and would not face jail time.

“I think he's looking at a year's probation,” Mr. McDougle, Sr. said. “He's basically excited to just be able to put this behind him. It's messed him up for years already.”

“Scooter” McDougle was the first man charged in the alleged point-shaving scheme when he was charged in U.S. District Court in Detroit on March 29, 2007. Those charges were dropped as a procedural matter in April, 2007, but the ongoing federal investigation cost Mr. McDougle his senior football season with the Rockets.

Ms. Mohsin said the next court proceeding for Mr. Payne, Mr. Triplett, and the two Detroit gamblers is set for May 14.

Stevin Groth, the Toledo attorney who is representing Mr. Payne, said all parties in the case have been approached to some extent to enter into a plea agreement. He said his client “hasn't taken that step yet,” but the other former athletes “could, as a part of their deals, whether they are telling the truth or not, put my client in jeopardy.”

“That's something we'll have to weigh as we move forward,” said Mr. Groth, whose client is the only other UT athlete to lose playing time because of the federal investigation.

Mr. Payne's senior basketball season of 2007-08 was wiped out even though he wasn't charged until May, 2009. All of the other former Rockets had left the school before they were charged.

Ray Richards, who is representing Mr. Triplett, said that for now, his client was moving toward a trial.

“He wants to play basketball,” Mr. Richards said of Mr. Triplett, who played professionally in Europe following his final season with the Rockets in 2004-05. “But it's difficult for him to get picked up by any team with this hanging over his head. … In an effort to clear his name and continue to proclaim his innocence, he's gone through a rough time as he continues to try to get this thing resolved.”

The latest announcements of intended plea agreements, if they hold, will bring the total of former UT athletes to plead guilty in the scheme to five.

Former Rockets basketball player Sammy Villegas, charged in June, 2008, with shaving points and recruiting others to join the plot, reached a plea agreement later that year and continues to await sentencing.

Mr. Villegas was accused of intentionally missing two free throws in a game as a senior on Feb. 4, 2006, against Central Michigan.

Many of the charges stem from evidence gathered through an authorized wiretap of Manni's cell phone that started in November, 2005, and lasted for more than a year. Mr. Currie, Mr. Triplett, Mr. Payne, and Mr. Broussard were charged with shaving points as well, while Mr. McDougle and Mr. Cuomo were accused of working behind the scenes in the scheme.

All of the former athletes charged could face up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines if convicted of the original charges.

Larry Burns, vice president of external affairs at UT, said the university was not surprised by Wednesday's revelations and in many ways was “glad that this is coming to closure.”

“Indeed, we are saddened, mostly because of the lives this has impacted for the student-athletes and their families,” Mr. Burns said.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6559.



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