While USC has painted itself as the victim of conspiracies concocted by rich families to buy their kids’ way into the school, lawyers for some of the parents who remain on trial in the vast admissions scandal say USC knew exactly what was going on.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the attorneys are seeking internal documents from USC they say would prove their clients had no way of knowing that the money they gave to admitted mastermind William “Rick” Singer was anything but business as usual at the university.
In August, a lawyer for Miami developer Robert Zangrillo—accused of paying $250,000 to get his daughter accepted—subpoenaed fundraising records to demonstrate what percentage of applicants had been accepted within a year of their families donating $50,000 or more.
Now, more parents are following up with a laundry list of documents they’d like to see released, including USC fundraising records, in an effort to demonstrate that their clients believed their payments were legit contributions to the school, and not in any way out of the ordinary.
At the heart of the argument is that some of the alleged bribe money went straight to USC bank accounts, while Singer made the payoffs directly to accused co-conspirators on the faculties of other institutions.
While prosecutors say he gave $100,000 checks to a Georgetown tennis coach for admission spots, and was similarly paying off two soccer coaches at USC who have since pleaded guilty, he instructed most of his USC clients to send their money to USC bank accounts run by alleged co-conspirators, athletic department administrator Donna Heinel and water polo coach Jovan Vavic. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The lawyers argue that the parents couldn’t have known there was anything nefarious about their payments, since they went to the school itself. They also say the school can’t be a victim of conspiracy at the same time as it was profiting off the scheme.
An attorney for casino owner Gamal Abdelaziz, who is accused of getting his daughter admitted as a fake basketball recruit, says the government’s case that “a payment to the very same institution that is allegedly defrauded of its employee’s honest services is a bribe” is “dubious” and “novel.”
The accused USC conspirators are also refusing to be thrown under the bus.
Jovan Vavic’s lawyer said the coach was “not only encouraged but effectively required” to raise money for his program, and that his methods were “fully endorsed and facilitated by university officials.” Denying all charges against Vavic, he added that the entire case “ignores the reality that at USC, a parent’s ability and willingness to contribute to the university, including to athletics, influenced admissions decisions.”