Defense attorneys confirmed yesterday that one Tulane University basketball player will attempt to plea bargain and two others will plead innocent when they are arraigned on point-shaving charges next week.
NBA prospect John (Hot Rod) Williams and guard David Dominique will plead innocent, while guard Bobby Thompson will seek a deal from prosecutors, their attorneys said. The three are accused with five others of affecting the outcome of three Tulane basketball games in February. Arraignment and bond hearing is set for Monday, when the pleas will be entered.
Williams, who was considered a near certain first-round NBA draft pick, yesterday added two attorneys to his defense team. Attorney Michael Green of Chicago, one of two newcomers to that team (the other is Ronald Balson), said Williams is completely innocent and that Orleans Parish district attorney Harry Connick's case against the star center is based on testimony by "drug addicts."
The attorney for Dominique, Edward Castaing Jr., said the sophomore would "plead not guilty, for sure," to two counts of sports bribery and three counts of conspiracy to commit sports bribery.
Thompson, who is cooperating with Connick's investigation, will attempt to plea bargain, attorney Russell Schonekas told The Washington Post. Thompson faces two counts of conspiracy to commit sports bribery, the least severe of the charges against the eight people indicted by the Orleans Parish grand jury last week for state gambling violations.
Schonekas said he plans to ask that the charges be reduced to one count of conspiracy in return for a guilty plea.
"If and when we go, we'll probably plead to one count of conspiracy," Schonekas said. "That's what I'll offer, anyway."
Connick would not comment on whether he would consider a plea bargain for Thompson, but did confirm that Thompson is cooperating with the investigation.
The comments by Schonekas and Green were the first public statements made by representatives concerning Williams' and Thompson's defense.
Most of the attorneys involved were at the New Orleans court house yesterday for the formal allotment of the case, which was assigned to Judge Alvin Oser of New Orleans District Criminal Court. Schonekas was not present. The arraignment was expected to take place yesterday, but Oser postponed it for one week.
Williams is charged with two counts of sports bribery and three counts of conspiracy to commit sports bribery.
"There's nothing to plead guilty to," Green said. "The man gave his best effort in every game he ever played for Tulane."
Green also said that "leaks" from the district attorney's office had promoted sensationalism surrounding the case and hurt his client.
"I don't see why a prosecutor would do that, unless he doesn't have a very strong case," he said.
Also present at the courthouse yesterday were attorneys for the three students and two nonstudents under indictment.
The three indicted students, who are not on the team, are Gary Kranz, of New Rochelle, N.Y.; Mark Olensky, of Fair Lawn, N.J., and David Rothenberg, of Wilton, Conn. Kranz faces the most serious charges: 10 counts of sports bribery, three of conspiracy, and 10 counts of distribution of cocaine. Olensky is charged with 10 counts of bribery and three of conspiracy, and Rothenberg with two counts of conspiracy.
Attorney Mike Fawer said Kranz would plead not guilty to all of the charges.
The two nonstudents involved are convicted gambler Roland Ruiz and New Orleans resident Craig Bourgeois. Each is charged with five counts of sports bribery and one of conspiracy.
Two players, forwards Clyde Eads and Jon Johnson, received immunity from Connick for testimony before the grand jury last week.
The three games under investigation by Connick's office are a 64-63 victory over Southern Mississippi on Feb. 2, a 66-65 loss to Virginia Tech on Feb. 16 and a 60-49 loss to Memphis State on Feb. 20.