Originally published March 2, 2011 at 08:59a.m., updated March 2, 2011 at 04:52p.m.
Two former Kansas Athletics Inc. employees are in line to spend two years on probation and pay thousands of dollars in restitution for their roles in a ticket-skimming scheme that cost the department at least $2 million.
Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons are scheduled to receive their sentences Monday during separate hearings before U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown, in U.S. District Court in Wichita.
On Wednesday, Brown filed a “tentative” ruling that calls for Jeffries and Simmons to spend two years on probation on their convictions. Both have pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony — failing to inform authorities about their knowledge of the tickets scheme at KU.
Brown intends to order the two to pay restitution: Simmons would be responsible for $157,480, and Jeffries would be responsible for $56,000.
Federal sentencing guidelines, Brown said, would recommend prison sentences of eight to 14 months, with an option for home detention. But Brown has opted for probation instead, contending that house arrest would not be necessary given “the nature of the offense” and the defendants’ “history and characteristics.”
Jeffries, as assistant director of ticket operations, and Simmons, as assistant athletics director for sales and marketing, were the first two former KU employees to plead guilty in a scheme that the university determined, through an independent investigation, resulted in about 19,000 regular-season tickets for basketball and football being stolen from 2005 to 2010.
A federal investigation — which spurred the KU investigation — ultimately resulted in five others resigning and pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Those others — Charlette Blubaugh, ticket manager; Tom Blubaugh, a paid consultant and Charlette’s husband; Rodney Jones, assistant athletics director for the Williams Fund; Ben Kirtland, associate athletics director for development; and Kassie Liebsch, a systems analyst who briefly served as ticket manager — still await sentencing.
Earlier this week, Simmons’ attorney had asked the judge to delay his client’s sentencing, to give him time to make a case for a reduced sentence. Simmons had pleaded guilty, Mark Bennett Jr. said, with the expectation that prosecutors would file a motion acknowledging “substantial assistance” by his client, a motion that could help support a reduced sentence.
“He’s cooperated from the very get go on this thing,” Bennett said in July, after Simmons entered his guilty plea. “He’s been interviewed twice (by the attorney working for KU). He’s been interviewed by federal agents. He’s provided every piece of information he has, or has been asked about.”
But Bennett learned Monday that no such support would be coming from prosecutors. Richard Hathaway, assistant U.S. attorney, had told him that “since the case has been disposed of without the necessity of a trial the defendant had not provided the requisite substantial assistance,” Bennett said.
Bennett was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to discuss whether the tickets case indeed had been “disposed of,” now that seven defendants had pleaded guilty.
“Our remarks will be made in the courtroom,” Cross said.