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Originally published October 18, 2018 at 12:12p.m., updated October 18, 2018 at 05:39p.m.

Defense attorney argues Bill Self knew about payments to families of KU players

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with media members at the Hotel Ambassador upon the Jayhawks' arrival in Wichita on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with media members at the Hotel Ambassador upon the Jayhawks' arrival in Wichita on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

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A defense attorney in the trial on corruption in college basketball argued Thursday that University of Kansas coach Bill Self knew about payments from Adidas to highly sought recruits to get them to play for KU, according to an ESPN report.

Michael Schachter, attorney for former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, said during closing arguments that Self knew about Adidas’ payments to the families of players who were led to play for KU, an Adidas-sponsored school, and that Gatto was working on behalf of the universities by doing so.

Schachter argued that Self knew and asked for a $2,500 payment to De Sousa’s guardian Fenny Falmagne, according to the report.

“The evidence, I submit, shows that Kansas’ head coach knew of and asked for a payment to be made to Silvio De Sousa’s handler,” Schachter told the jury. “More than that, Coach Self requested just the kind of help that Mr. (T.J.) Gassnola arranged as a condition for Coach Self to permit Adidas to continue their sponsorship agreement with the University of Kansas.”

Self did not respond to the Journal-World’s request for comment Thursday. He previously said he would not comment until the trial had concluded.

The prosecutors and defense lawyers finished their closing arguments Thursday. The jury will begin deliberations on Monday.

During the trial, former recruiting fixer and Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola testified that he made payments to the families of KU players Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston.

Falmagne allegedly received the $2,500 for college courses and was supposed to receive $20,000 to get De Sousa out of a $60,000 deal with a University of Maryland booster. Preston’s mother, Nicole Player, allegedly received several payments totaling $90,000.

Gassnola said he never told Self or KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend about the payments.

But text messages between Self and Gassnola presented as evidence in the trial showed Self was at least aware of Gassnola’s and Adidas’ help in steering highly sought recruits to KU.

Text messages dated Aug. 9, 2017, showed Townsend sending a message to Gassnola that said, “Coach Self just talked to Fenny let me know how it goes,” referring to Falmagne, the guardian of De Sousa, who is from Angola.

Later that day, Gassnola sent a message to Self that said, “Hall of Fame. When you have 5 minutes and your [sic] alone call me.”

Gassnola sent another message after Self did not respond that said, “I talked to Fenny.”

Self responded asking, “We good?”

“Always,” Gassnola said. “That’s [sic] was light work. Ball is in his court now.”

Gassnola and Self did in fact have a five-minute phone conversation later that day, according to the report. The FBI did not wiretap the call and Gassnola said he did not recall what he and Self talked about.

In another text message shown in court, dated Aug. 19, 2017, just days before KU announced a 12-year agreement with Adidas, Gassnola sent a text message to Self thanking him for helping to finish the deal, according to the report.

“I’m happy with Adidas. Just got to get a couple real guys,” Self said in reply.

Gassnola replied via text message: “In my mind, it’s KU, bill self. Everyone else fall into line. Too (expletive) bad. That’s what’s right for Adidas basketball. And I know I am RIGHT. The more you win, have lottery pics [sic] and you happy. That’s how it should work in my mind.”

“That’s how ur works. At UNC and Duke,” Self responded. Gassnola said at Kentucky as well.

Lawyers for Gatto sought to use the texts to show that Self was aware of efforts to funnel secret payments to recruits.

The attorneys also tried to use a recorded phone conversation between former amateur coach Merl Code and Townsend, but Judge Lewis A. Kaplan denied its use.

Mark Moore, an attorney for Code, read a transcript of the conversation between Townsend and Code when he was trying to get it admitted as evidence. In a tapped phone call in which the two were discussing the recruitment of blue-chip prospect Zion Williamson, Townsend said, “Hey, but between me and you, you know, he asked about some stuff. You know? And I said, ‘Well, we’ll talk about that, you decide.’”

Code said, “I know what he’s asking for. He’s asking for opportunities from an occupational perspective, he’s asking for cash in the pocket and he’s asking for housing for him and his family.”

In reply, Townsend said, “I’ve got to just try to work and figure out a way because if that’s what it takes to get him here for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.”

Whether the “opportunities” were for Williamson or a family member is not clear.

Kaplan said the recording was not relevant to the case because it was recorded after the crimes of which Code is accused took place.

Gatto, Code and business manager Christian Dawkins have pleaded not guilty to defrauding various colleges by concealing the use of under-the-table payments of up to $100,000 by Adidas in exchange for commitments to programs that were seen as a path to big NBA paydays. Their lawyers haven’t disputed payments were arranged in violation of NCAA rules, but they argue that the schools never suffered any harm.

Comments

Suzi Marshall 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Does the LJW plan to conduct polling predicting the outcome of this case? I'm predicting a 'Not Guilty' verdict in the case.

Suzi Marshall 3 weeks, 6 days ago

...one exception is the wire fraud charge. They will for sure be found guilty of that one. However, that's small potatoes compared to the fraud charges.

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Remember that for KU's sake, a guilty verdict is more beneficial as that would indicate KU and other named schools were defrauded and was not aware of the scheme to pay players. Not guilty indicates the schools/coaches were in on it all.

Barry Weiss 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense can say all sorts of things in opening and closing comments. Its the facts, as presented in the trial and entered into evidence for the jury to consider that matters. I'm sure if this defense attorney actually had some tape or other proof that coach Self did this, he would have presented it as evidence. As it is, this guy is just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks and if he can get the jury to buy it. I say, get lost chump!

Jeff Coffman 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Not-Guilty means that the Government failed to show that KU was a victim and that Bill Self (or KU representatives) knew about the payments.

Guilty means beyond a reasonable doubt, KU did not know and was defrauded and therefore the personnel committed wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Len Shaffer 3 weeks, 6 days ago

That's not necessarily true. Even if the jury doesn't believe that KU and other schools knew about the payments, the jury could feel that no harm came to the schools so there's nothing to be guilty of.

I think Suzi is right that they'll be found not guilty, but I don't think that will mean that KU knew -- although at this point I'm not convinced that KU DIDN'T know either.

Joe Joseph 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Bill Self's a smart guy. Whether or not he directly asked for payments to be made, he definitely knew they were taking place.

This whole thing is just sad and, honestly, embarrassing.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I really dont think he knew about the payments..the guy himself said he didnt tell Self what he was doing..I think Self knew he was talking to kids and helping recruit..but not to th extent of paying anyone...3rd party recruiting itself isnt a violation...Nike reps talk to kids all the time about programs and coaches they think would be the best fit

Jeff Coffman 3 weeks, 6 days ago

To me it is interesting, if all cash, calls, and transactions occurred within the state (never crossing a state boarder when two people interacted) there would not be a crime alleged.

Chad Leslie 3 weeks, 6 days ago

There were multiple payoffs made out of state. One in New York & at least one in Vegas.

Suzi Marshall 3 weeks, 6 days ago

That is the count the Adidas guys are dead on. No way the get out of that one.

Steve Corder 3 weeks, 6 days ago

There are In-house attorneys and there are Outhouse attorneys.

Chad Leslie 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Self has been cheating for some time. This stuff has been following him since Tulsa. It's too bad it took the FBI to uncover it instead of one of his employers. At this point, the only question is how many wins & banners are vacated. We knew this was coming unfortunately.

Joe Black 3 weeks, 6 days ago

That is a complete stretch to say the least. He was in no trouble whatsoever while at Tulsa. How many wins and banners? The only thing they have has occurred in the last two seasons and one of the individuals didn't even step on the court for KU. How could you see multiple wins vacated? Geesh, what an over reaction.

Stuart Swaziek 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Plz troll elsewhere Chad. You bring nothing to the table.

Chad Leslie 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Now all the smoke around Diallo, Alexander & Jackson makes sense... Do I get my money back for my 13 Straight t-shirt?

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

the Diallo situation wasnt on KU, neither was the Alexander..hell, neither was Selby....never mind getting a refund on your t-shirt you need to turn in your fan card and take your negative doomsday butt to another fan board and cheer for someone else..people like you think allegations are the same as proof...you sir, are fired from Ku fandom..turn in your uniform and see yourself out

Chad Leslie 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Since it clearly takes FBI wire taps & indictments to get to the bottom of Self's shenanigans we can't say whether there was impropriety involving Selby, Diallo, Alexander & Jackson or not... but there's always smoke around this program. I don't think Self just decided to start cheating this year. Do you?

Bryce Landon 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I hope to God that this Molotov cocktail that Schacter threw in there during these closing arguments isn't true. I don't want to believe that it's true. But if it is, well, Jeff Long may have some housecleaning to do.

Tony Bandle 3 weeks, 6 days ago

F##KITY F##K F##K!!!

No doubt, the gig in the NBA is looking more and more like the lesser of two evils compared to an elite NCAA head coaching job to Bill Self!!!

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

he isnt going to the NBA..at 56 years old with zero NBA experience he is too old to start from scratch..his job at KU is safe...he is way more likely to retire earlier than once thought than going to the NBA

Brian Leiker 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I just want to know when UA and Nike get their trials started. They all do it.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

So we have 1 guy saying Self knew..and another saying he never told Self what he was doing..so who is telling the truth ?

Bryce Landon 3 weeks, 6 days ago

The guy saying Self knew is (hopefully) in "If-I'm-going-down-I'm-taking-as-many-people-down-with-me-as-possible" mode, and is (hopefully) trying to pull a misdirection out of his @$$ to take some of the heat off of his client.

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

If you guys would read the article you'd see that it was the LAWYER that proposed Self knew, not an individual charged with crimes.

So the guy under oath throwing everyone under the bus to save his a** said Self didn't know about any payments. The guy trying to get a not guilty verdict (not under oath) says the evidence provided "shows" Self knew. The lawyer can say whatever he wants but it doesn't make it true, particularly when the evidence (testimony) directly disputes what he's stating.

Joe Ross 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Well at this point, with KU implicated in so many violations, we may as well play De Sousa. If Kansas wins a title and has it vacated, at least other schools won't win it either.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

um no...no player on THIS team is implicated..aside from Silvio of course...why risk the season on 1 player..its far to late for the NCAA to pass any sanctions on any program for the upcoming season...

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I figured you'd understand the difference between someone stating under oath that Self did NOT know about payments, and a lawyer trying to convince the jury of a not guilty verdict claiming the opposite in closing statements.

Joe Ross 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Yes, Shannon. I understand the difference. My fear is that the NCAA won't! Furthermore, there is a wire tap of Townsend effectively saying we need to pay a player to bring him here. The NCAA won't decide the legality, obviously. But they have the power and authority to vacate wins.

Since that's the case...

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Townsend can just as easily say that statement is merely a means to keep Zion interested in KU in hopes that other offers fall through and level the playing field. In other words, his options are to say "not gonna happen" and any shot at Zion is gone, or say "we've got to figure out a way" and have a shot at Zion without any intention of following through.

Brian Skelly 3 weeks, 6 days ago

 This whole thing at this point is a joke.    A bad one.    It's obvious KU engaged in things that would appear to be violations of NCAA rules.

 But after today's announcement that the NBA will be offering 125k G-League contracts for those who don't want to do one-and-done,  the likely punishment maybe the NCAA actually cutting the checks to KU to cover the costs.

  The golden goose is getting cooked.    And folks at the NCAA unsurprisingly are the last to know.

  This is as close to a victimless crime as can be committed.    Other than scalping maybe.

  Nothing will happen but a slap on the wrist.

Robin Smith 3 weeks, 6 days ago

The timing of the G-League announcement is very interesting.

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

They now know the going rate for top players and figured out they can afford it!

David McNickle 3 weeks, 5 days ago

So they get rid of the "1 and done" rule and people think that will keep people from paying players that will be playing a minimum of 2 years and maybe 3? Seems to me a top player's mom/family/guardian, coming out of HS, not declaring for the draft would want a little something. I don't think the eliminating the one and done solves the problem.

Darrel Stice 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I'd love to agree with you about this being a victimless crime. However, we don't hear about any smaller schools getting top recruits. The big name schools that generate the big dollars are where these shoe companies are steering blue chip players. It definitely could be argued that mid-majors and smaller universities are suffering due to lost revenue caused by the inability to be as competitive with lesser players being signed because the blue chip players are committing to the big schools to receive a payday.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I still don't think Self knew of the payments.I think he knew Gassnola was trying to talk him up to a few kids but don't think he knew how far he was going...the text and wire taps are still so vague .in the court of public opinion KU is already guilty and Should be hit hard...lets hope the NCAA doesn't buy into what that court thinks and shows restraint on KU ..is like for Self to not be run off over this or retire early

Freddie Garza 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I just find it hilarious that FBI resources have been used to investigate potential violations of NCAA bylaws...we are certainly a nation with our priorities in order, I insist. LOL!!!!!

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Except that's not what this trial is about. It has NOTHING to do with the NCAA bylaws. All they are charged with are Federal crimes, not NCAA relates. The potential for NCAA violations comes from the discovery of evidence of cheating. It's a side effect of the trial/evidence presented, not the trial itself, that is related to the NCAA.

John Joseph Gorski 3 weeks, 6 days ago

This makes me wonder if Ed O'Bannon was paid one of these payments would the EA Sports thing come up? I want my EA Sports NCAA Football games back Dammit!!!

Marius Rowlanski 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I think every HOF should wait until 5 years AFTER the nominee ends their career.

I am glad the NBA has just ended the juggernaut hold the NCAA has on college basketball.

I hope the NFL finds a similar way to cut the NCAA's influence even more.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

the G-league rule will only really affect the top 10-20 HS players..so that alone wont deter another scandal from happening again..the NFL will never change its 3 year rule...with it being such a violent sport, its actually a great thing for kids to NOT be able to go pro out of HS..

Allison Steen 3 weeks, 6 days ago

There's a reason why this wasn't presented as evidence but was used in his closing statements. You can essentially say almost whatever you want in your closing statement. If he had legitimate evidence, he would've used it.

Not to mention, in what world would Bill Self risk his career to pay the 100th best player to come to KU?

Titus Canby 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Exactly. Great point Allison. It's the difference between being under oath, and not being under oath.

Danny Hernandez 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Of course, the defense attorney is going to place as much blame on the coaches to distract. I’m not worried, Coach Self’s fine

Freedman Moor 3 weeks, 6 days ago

A few things:

  1. R.C. Buford is the GM of the San Antonio Spurs
  2. Gregg Popovich's contract ends in 2019
  3. Possible NCAA investigation, which could wreck recruiting.

I think nothing short of 40-0 keeps Self at KU past April.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

you honestly think Self would leave KU for the NBA at THIS stage of his life? come on dude, THINK!!!!...if he were a 56 year old assistant coach who's been in the NBA for years, then maybe..but no 56 year old college coach with no NBA experience is going to suddenly decide to "take his shot"..KU isnt gonna fire Self because he hasnt done anything wrong..some vague text taken out of context and talking to a rouge Adidas exec who was wheeling and dealing behind Selfs back isnt goint to cost Self his job, make him retire early and certainly not push him into the NBA

Lawrence McGlinn 3 weeks, 6 days ago

You are a great fan, I must say. In total denial, but a Jayhawk to the end! I don't think Self would go to San Antonio either. He can roll the ball out on the court and win 25 games at KU because of superior, Adidas-certified athletes. I don't know how he would fair in the NBA where there is no such advantage. He does not strike me as a tactical mind like Brad Stevens who is probably the most successful recent college-to-NBA coach. I think he knew what was going on, but he's in the middle of $190M for KU. He's not going anywhere.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I think Self knew Gassnola was talking to kids on his behalf..but there is no violation in 3rd party recruiting..i dont think Self knew of payments..especially when the guy himself testified that he kept the KU staff in the dark

Freedman Moor 3 weeks, 1 day ago

The only things your reply is missing is facts, objectivity, and a reason why. You have no clue of what you are talking about. Fail.

Robert Brock 3 weeks, 6 days ago

So, this attorney argues that Bill Self has corrupted his fine, upstanding and honorable client. It was Bill Self that lured this sparkling innocent into the depths of wretchedness and depravity.

All I can say is...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Jeff Polaski 3 weeks, 5 days ago

No, he's just saying the university knew what was going on so it couldn't be fraud.

Robin Smith 3 weeks, 6 days ago

With the remaining trials, I wonder if this could lead to a schism with the NCAA.

Robin Smith 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Also, Gassnola denies Self or Townsend had knowledge of payments, planned or made. Gassnola, remember, is testifying as part of a cooperation deal with the government, facing 20 years in prison. He'd be flipping if there were flipping to be had.

The texts are vague and can be accounted for by other explanations. I think they're ultimately found guilty, as the very existence of the trial presents potential harm to the university. Whatever we make of the rules of the NCAA, their rulings do effect the universities adversely. Even if the coaches knew, the university--the government funded institution with a lucrative cottage industry--is harmed by these crimes, should the NCAA come a-knockin.

Jonathan Allison 3 weeks, 2 days ago

This whole thing is very interesting. The FBI is investigating these guys. They have Gassnola who has agreed to cooperate with the FBI as part of a plea deal on wire fraud charges. He is helping them go after Gatto, Code, and Dawkins. These guys are on trial for wire fraud, and apparently for some crimes related to defrauding the universities. Gassnola is not implicating the universities, so presumably the FBI is not interested in going after the universities, only after these shadow characters.

Gatto, Code, and Dawkins are using the defense that they couldn't be defrauding the universities if the universities were complicit (this kinda makes sense, if true). And that they aren't guilty of wire fraud because they were wiring money to recruits' families on behalf of the university (I don't see how this defense would work, since these are the guys who were paying the families).

But it does make sense that if the FBI has no interest in accusing these universities that they would not want Gassnola to implicate Bill Self and KU as being party to the payment of recruit families.

So if the federal prosecutors effectively win the argument, that's good for KU, and if the defense wins then that is bad for KU.

Of course, the NCAA doesn't really care who wins or loses, they are interested in the facts and in the evidence. And I may be wrong, but I believe that the standard for the NCAA is whether or not KU is more likely than not to be guilty of NVAA violations. They don't need to prove the violations "beyond a reasonable doubt." They could expect legal pushback if their case is not very strong, but because the standard is lower, the NCAA's chance of winning an appeal goes up.

Joe Baker 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Can anyone tell me where the bearded lady is located. I would also like to see the clown car too. If you know where the house of mirrors is located, I'd like to go there. Then there is the strong man. I think there is a grand master and definitely a ticket booth. The lady that reads your palm is also at the trial.

Circus Circus Circus...absurd, ridiculous, and creating unnecessary banter from trolls and haters.

The story lines are stupid and way out of line. Neither Bill Self, the NCAA nor the players are on trial. There is no due process. There are no lawyers for Self and the players. You don't have to be a hotshot lawyer to figure this stupid courtroom drama.

The judge has made it clear the only people on trial are the shoe whores. Their Schiester of a lawyer is desperate and he is a two bit lawyer trying to make a name for himself. These texts are taken out of context and we have no idea what preceded or followed. They are taking pieces needed to pass the guilt to Self. If there was any wrong, Self and KU would have their lawyers present.

You idiots talking about firing Self, vacating wins, and DeSousa not playing are out of your ever loving minds. DeSousa and his guardian did nothing wrong. DeSousa will play. I believe Falmagne.

The NCAA isn't intelligent enough to conduct their own damn investigation. They can't even catch a cold if it bit them in the azz. Like every other player cleared by the NCAA, they do nothing to DeSousa.

Joshua Hann 3 weeks, 5 days ago

There was a report that the University has had their lawyers at each day of court.

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Spectating yes, but not defending any dubious claims. Big difference.

Chad Leslie 3 weeks, 4 days ago

I don't think anyone thinks Bill Self is a defendant in this trial Joe? At least I haven't seen any one claim that?

Although... the information uncovered through FBI wire taps & subpoenaed text messages clearly shows Self & Townsend communicated & cooperated with those on trial in order to pay players/guardians to attend KU. You must understand this is a violation of NCAA rules & will at some point lead to an NCAA investigation, right? Even if you think the NCAA is incompetent, the FBI has done all of the investigation for them. All the NCAA has to do is read the newspaper for evidence.

As for De Souza & Fenny "doing nothing wrong" are you referring to:

1.) Accepting money from a Maryland booster? 2.) Accepting money from Adidas? 3.) Signing a professional contract in Spain?

My main concern is when De Souza is declared ineligible shortly, what will he & Fenny have to say about his "recruitment"... I've got a feeling they have a lot to say.

Jeff Polaski 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I guess Bill Self wants to be the next John Wooden.

Micky Baker 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I don't know if Self knew about the payments. The text messages saying, "Are we good?" do not even come close to proving that. It is not unreasonable to believe that coaches know that the athletic gear companies are talking to recruits. Not sure the NCAA can really handle this without causing a major fallout throughout all of Division I College basketball.

With that said, one of the players implicated was never cleared by the NCAA. One was. One never played a regular season game, one played as a freshman after the first semester last year. The season is very close to starting, the NCAA has already cleared De Sousa. I hate that there are people outside the program that feel the need to do this. If the NCAA is to address this the right way, there will some major sanctions passed down over the next few years without regard to the status of the programs to send a message, don't do it anymore. But then, will that really stop it from happening? I don't think so. But if it does happen, the FBI shouldn't be doing the investigation to enforce NCAA rules. It's not the FBI's place. Of course, I really can't trust the NCAA to police itself either.

I really hope that Self didn't know, but if he did know, he isn't going to be here much longer. That is my expectation just based on what we know now.

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