Two Tulane University basketball players who were granted immunity from prosecution by the state for their grand jury testimony still could be prosecuted by federal authorities in an alleged point-shaving scheme.
Clyde Eads and Jon Johnson, whose testimony last week led to the arrests of three students and a reputed bookmaker on Friday, were brought into the office of District Attorney Harry Connick today to review their statements. Connick confirmed they were granted immunity by his office, and he also contended that the immunity should be respected by federal authorities.
But U.S. Attorney John Volz is conducting a separate investigation into possible interstate violations of federal sports bribery laws. Volz said that immunity granted by Connick's office did not carry over to his office.
"I don't want to get into specifics or identities, but I think it is appropriate for me to say that state authorities cannot grant immunity from federal prosecution," Volz told The Washington Post.
Today, Connick interviewed two more Tulane students at his office in connection with the alleged point-shaving scheme. Point shaving is winning or losing by a larger or smaller margin than the established betting line.
The students, who were not identified and appeared to be without attorneys, were not arrested and a member of the district attorney's office said they were not implicated. They spent almost four hours in his office; Eads and Johnson, who also appeared to be without attorneys, spent about two hours there.
Connick said Eads and Johnson simply were reviewing their testimony before the state grand jury. Under immunity, the state could prosecute them only for perjury.
"The state cannot prosecute anyone with federal immunity, so when you're talking about federal prosecution, in my legal opinion it should work the other way, too," Connick said.
The players arrested so far, on two counts each of sports bribery, are 6-foot-9 center John (Hot Rod) Williams and guards Bobby Thompson and David Dominique. Thompson reportedly is suspected of being the middleman who contacted other players. They all were released on personal recognizance bonds.
Williams and Thompson reportedly have made statements to the district attorney implicating themselves in the alleged schemes. Connick would not comment on the reports.
Ed Castaing, the attorney for Dominique, told The Washington Post his client maintains his innocence. It is the first official denial of the charges by Dominique.
"He has made no such statement to any law enforcement officer," Castaing said. "David has never maintained anything other than his innocence in our conversations. He maintains complete innocence of any point-shaving scheme."
Also facing possible indictment are three students. Gary Kranz of New Rochelle, N.Y., is charged with two counts of sports bribery and one count of possession and conspiracy to distribute cocaine; Mark Olensky of Fair Lawn, N.J., is charged with two counts of sports bribery, two counts of conspiracy to commit sports bribery and one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and David Rothenberg of Wilton, Conn., is charged with one count each of sports bribery and conspiracy.
Roland Ruiz, the only nonstudent alleged involved so far, is charged with five counts of sports bribery, one for each member of the starting five, and one count of conspiracy to commit sports bribery. He has nine misdemeanor gambling convictions.
The U.S. attorney's office, via the FBI, has been conducting an investigation for "several weeks," according to Volz. The district attorney's office began its action last week.
Connick said his office would like to wrap up its investigation this week in order to ask for indictments when the grand jury meets again Thursday. He said he expects two or three more arrests this week of bookmakers or students, "or some of both."
"We're pretty narrow in the scope of our investigation now," Connick said. "We want to present a case to the grand jury and then move forward. By Thursday, we would like to ask for indictments. Frankly, that's what we're shooting for."
But he also said he still believes the case involves out-of-state influences. Volz, who became involved at the request of the university, would not comment on the stage of his investigation, nor whether it involved out-of-state transactions.
"I don't think we're overstating the situation," Connick said. "We feel other locations are involved. If someone wants to infer something from that, they're free to."
The case concerns two games, a 64-43 victory over Southern Mississipi on Feb. 2, and a 60-49 loss to Memphis State on Feb. 23. Ruiz is charged only in connection with the second game. Connick has said he suspects Ruiz was brought into the second game by a player on the team seeking to increase his profit.