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Volume 21 No. 39
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Powerful lawyers dive into college hoops case

New York defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman is representing one of the 10 defendants in the U.S. government’s crackdown on alleged bribery and corruption in college basketball.

Though it may put him into the sports news, it’s not Lichtman’s first trip into the glare of the media spotlight. He secured an acquittal for mafia boss John Gotti Jr. in the late 1980s, and he’s now representing Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

“The Gotti Jr. case, Gotti in New York, was 10 times bigger than El Chapo in New York,” Lichtman said. “El Chapo is the biggest international case, maybe, ever.”

Lichtman, who represents USC assistant basketball coach Tony Bland, is one of several criminal defense attorneys representing a defendant in the case who has been involved in high-profile criminal cases.

One, Michael Schachter, who represents Adidas executive Jim Gatto, prosecuted Martha Stewart as an assistant U.S. attorney in the

Southern District of New York in the early 2000s. Schachter worked as a prosecutor in that office, the same one that is prosecuting the NCAA basketball case, for seven years before joining the law firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher in 2005.

Former Oklahoma State associate head basketball coach Lamont Evans is represented by Billy Martin, one of the most famous defense attorneys in the country. Martin has represented many athletes, including former NBA player Jayson Williams, who was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of a limousine driver in 2004 but found guilty of several lesser charges. Martin also represented Michael Vick, who pleaded guilty to charges involving a dog fighting ring in 2007.

“With Michael, I think the punishment far exceeded the crime,” Martin said. “I was very disappointed to watch a young man, in the prime of his career, lose almost $100 million of assets and endorsements.”

Probably the most publicized case Martin was involved in was representing Monica Lewinsky and her mother, Marcia Lewis, who had to appear before a grand jury in the impeachment case against President Bill Clinton.

Martin declined to say much about the U.S. attorney’s case against his client, Evans, and what it might mean for college basketball or the industry, as a whole. “We have entered a plea of not guilty and we hope to pursue protecting his constitutional rights supporting that not-guilty plea.”

Like Schachter, Martin is a former federal prosecutor. He supervised the team that prosecuted Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington, D.C.

Other attorneys representing defendants in the college basketball case:

■ Craig Mordock, a criminal defense attorney who works out of the Mordock Barber law firm in New Orleans, represents former University of Arizona assistant basketball coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson. Mordock represented Denny McLain, the 1968 and 1969 American League Cy Young Award Winner, in a dispute over the sale of scrap metal in 2011. Those charges ultimately were dropped.

Christian Dawkins, who formerly worked as a runner for former NBA agent Andy Miller, is represented by Steve Haney, whose firm is based in Southfield, Mich. Haney was a National Basketball Players Association-certified agent and said he has been sharing his knowledge of the basketball world with some of the other defense attorneys in the case.

Bland’s lawyer, Lichtman, who has his own firm, said the case is unusual because so many of the attorneys are based out of state. “It’s an eclectic bunch,” he said.

“I am representing the alleged underboss of a crime family right now in a death penalty federal case, so I am used to the typical New York lawyers,” Lichtman said. “There are different personalities here.”