Payoff videos, tale of $11K in shoe highlight trial

NEW YORK -- Videos showing cash exchanged in a posh Las Vegas hotel room where college basketball coaches cycled in and out, and the tale of $11,000 stuffed into a shoe and sent to a student-athlete were among the evidence presented to the jury Thursday in the college basketball corruption trial.

Jurors watched grainy, blue-tinted video as coach after coach settled down into a wide couch in the hotel room in July 2017. Wads of cash or envelopes were exchanged outright -- or money was spoken of as a future possibility -- to secure influence with the coaches' top players.

The undercover video recordings with coaches and testimony also revealed interesting highlights, including a discussion that Clemson assistant coach Steve Smith said he had with the father of Zion Williamson. In the video, Smith and aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins talked about the struggle to compete with schools like North Carolina, Kentucky and Duke, where Williamson eventually enrolled.

Government witness Marty Blazer said in the video that those schools "have people in place who will be able to pay for whatever is necessary" to help recruit Williamson.

Blazer also yielded new allegations, including the description of going to a store in Las Vegas to buy a pair of shoes -- with money from an undercover FBI agent -- into which Blazer said Dawkins would stuff $11,000 and FedEx to then-Texas A&M player Robert Williams, who Blazer said Dawkins had been paying.

Williams is now a rookie with the Boston Celtics and briefly addressed the allegations on Friday.

"Yeah, I've been saying, never took anything from anybody during my college career," Williams said. "Honestly just trying to focus on these playoffs. I tend to stop social media because it gets to you during playoff time, but like I said, never took anything from anybody. Hope this goes away as fast possible."

Dawkins and ex-Adidas executive Merl Code are facing a series of bribery-related charges in connection with allegedly paying coaches for influence over players to sign with Dawkins' financial services agency and Adidas when they turned pro.

In one of the videos, Smith was recorded talking about trying to recruit Williamson.

"I'm meeting with his stepdad," Smith said in the recording. "Me and his stepdad are going to work it out."

Smith later said that he told the stepdad that if Williamson goes to Duke or North Carolina, the stepdad is "outta the play."

Smith had been invited to the hotel room for a meeting with Blazer and Dawkins -- and attended by an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor.

"We'll be able to make sure everything's good for the parent and everything like that," Dawkins told Smith in the recording.

Blazer testified he took the discussion to mean that if Smith felt he was close to securing Williamson, Dawkins would help out with any financial assistance. And he said if Williamson went elsewhere, the father wouldn't get a cut.

In the video, Smith talked about the influence he had on whom players decided to work with, and he said it was important to keep a "tight" group. He referenced his relationship with Code, a former Clemson standout who he said he called upon when working with Clemson player KJ McDaniels, although he didn't offer specifics.

"That's why football is so successful," Smith said in the video. "If you do it and use resources at Clemson, like you really can keep everything tight."

Clemson issued a statement Thursday, saying the university was aware of developments involving Smith.

"We take this matter seriously and will immediately conduct a review," the statement said.

Smith was not among those coaches who took money that day, Blazer testified. However, video played for the jury showed three others accepting cash -- including assistant coaches Corey Barker at TCU, Tony Bland at USC and Creighton's Preston Murphy, whom the video showed plopping down on the couch wearing a shirt with "Creighton" and the Nike logo emblazoned across the front.

Murphy, who was placed on administrative leave, and Barker, who was fired, have not been charged with a crime. Bland and three other college coaches -- Emanuel "Book" Richardson (Arizona), Lamont Evans (South Carolina and Oklahoma State) and Chuck Person (Auburn) -- were indicted and have pleaded guilty.

Among the other coaches whom Blazer said he, Dawkins and the undercover FBI agent met with in Las Vegas were Yasir Rosemond (Alabama), Anthony Coleman (Arizona State), Amir Abdur-Rahim (Texas A&M and now Kennesaw State's head coach) and Raphael Chillious (UConn).

Blazer testified that Dawkins didn't pay, or set up payments, to those coaches because they "just didn't have any good players at that time." The video recordings and testimony from Blazer included discussions about Dawkins providing resources in exchange for access with those coaches.

"If something needs to be done, we can be of assistance," Dawkins said to Chillious. "... You have the resources and ammunition if you need it."

Dawkins made similar comments to Rosemond: "You're recruiting a kid that needs some s---, you know, we can facilitate." Rosemond replied he would introduce them to his recruits, telling Dawkins, "Whatever you need me to do, I'll do it. I ain't got no dog in the fight. One day be a head coach."

Defense attorneys began their cross-examination of Blazer at the end of the day Thursday, bringing up his history of lying in connection with his checkered past as a once-well-connected financial adviser to professional athletes.

In May 2016, Blazer was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with wire fraud and accused of siphoning $2.35 million from the accounts of several professional athletes to invest in movie projects and make Ponzi-like payments.

According to the SEC's complaint, when its examiners uncovered the unauthorized withdrawals and asked Blazer to explain them, he lied and produced falsified documents in an attempt to hide his misconduct.

In September 2017, Blazer pleaded guilty to a series of investment fraud-related charges. Cooperating with the government in its investigation, dating to 2014, was part of his plea deal.