Judge orders new trial for former USC coach convicted in college admissions case

Jovan Vavic, a renowned water polo coach at USC for 25 years, was convicted by a jury in April of soliciting and accepting more than $220,000 in bribes in exchange for helping secure admissions for students. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to bribe federal programs, and honest services wire fraud.

Prosecutors alleged that he created a “side door” into becoming athletic recruits by designating students as water polo recruits, regardless of where they played the sport. He also alleged that he used fake athletic resumes in the process.

On Thursday, US District Judge Indira Talwani accepted Wawick’s motion for a new trial, but declined his request for acquittal.

Defense attorney Stephen Larson said in an emailed statement, “In delivering a new trial, the court acknowledged what we have long argued — the government’s case built on the willful false statements of admitted fraudster Rick Singer. Is.” “As we have demonstrated and the court now confirms, there is no evidence that Coach Wawick ever used donations to the USC water polo event for his own benefit.”

US Attorney Rachel S. Rollins said the conviction was the right decision.

“We are deeply disappointed by this decision, which we do not believe to be based on facts or law. The jury found Mr. Vavik guilty on each of the counts and we believe he found it right,” the prosecutor said. “At this point, we are reviewing all our options.”

Vavik’s lawyers argued in court that the evidence presented at trial was “insufficient” as it pertains to the conspiracies he faced, and that the Honest Services mail and wire fraud count resulted in a “prejudicial spillover”. Is.

The defense also argued that a prosecutor made a false statement during closing arguments, with the prosecutor saying that Vavic agreed to recruit a student for $100,000.

In his ruling, Talwani said, “The government’s argument that it agreed to enroll a student for money in its water polo program was supported by evidence. But the claim that the settlement was for $100,000 , was not supported by any evidence.”

The misrepresentation alone was not enough to warrant a new trial, Talwani wrote, but the situation was complicated by the fact that prosecutors produced statements from the plan’s mastermind, Rick Singer, which were false.

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“The government potentially used Singer’s statements to show how Singer solicited parents as part of the plan,” Talwani wrote. “But where the government gave no disclaimer or acknowledgment to the jury that it was not presenting Singer’s statements about Vavik to be their truth, there is a great risk that the jury reached a decision based on false evidence. “

Singer, prosecutors have said, ran two common scams: first, cheating on standardized tests for students whose parents paid for; And second, using Singer’s connections with college sports coaches and bribes to pay for school to the children of parents with fake athletic credentials.

Vavik, the 15-time National Coach of the Year, was fired in March 2019 after allegations of his involvement in the scandal were made public. Her men’s teams won 10 national titles at USC and she crowned the women’s six.
Most of those charged in the admissions scam have pleaded guilty and completed their sentences, which are usually measured in weeks or months.
Among the more high-profile parents charged in the testing part of the plan was actress Felicity Huffman, who conspired to pay Singer $15,000 to boost her eldest daughter’s test scores, mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. convicted for. Huffman spent 11 days in prison in 2019.
Another actress, Lori Loughlin, spent two months in prison and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, spent five months in prison for paying $500,000 to bring their two daughters to USC as recruited athletes.

Singer, who pleaded guilty to multiple conspiracy charges in 2019, is to be sentenced in November, according to the Justice Department.

CNN’s Steve Almasi contributed to this report.

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