NEW Fox News articles can now be heard on audio! A federal court judge overturned a former University of Southern California coach’s conviction and mandated a new trial, giving him a new chance to be exonerated of charges related to a massive college admissions scam.
In Jovan Vavic’s fraud and bribery prosecution, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani determined that some government-presented evidence was inaccurate and that prosecutors misled jurors about the claimed bribe money. Vavic won awards as the university of Southern California’s water polo coach.
Vavic, who led USC’s men’s and women’s water polo teams to 16 national titles, was found guilty in April after being detained in the well publicized “Operation Varsity Blues” probe in March 2019.
Authorities charged Vavic with accepting over $200,000 in bribes in exchange for fabricated sports credentials and for designating college applicants as water polo players in order to gain admission to USC.
EX-USC Water Polo Coach Found Guilty of Taking Bribes; Test Taker Sentenced to Prison in College Admissions Scandal
According to the prosecution, Vavic assisted in the scheme’s recruitment of further participants. They cite wiretap transcripts in which Vavic described the arrangement as a “win-win” scenario and exhorted a colleague coach who was on the fence to “just do it.”
The admissions consultant at the center of the conspiracy, Rick Singer, was accused by the prosecution of making contributions to Vavic’s children’s private school tuition as well as to the water polo team.
FIRST TRIAL IN ALLEGED BRIBERY SCHEME HEADS TO JURY IN COLLEGE ADMISSION SCANDAL
At trial, Vavic’s attorneys maintained that their client was only doing what he could to earn money for his successful program because that is what the elite Los Angeles school’s athletic administration had requested. They claimed he never lied and never accepted a bribe because he always acted in the best interests of the school and his team.
Prosecutors have to demonstrate that the payments “served the defendants interests and harmed the universities,” the judge noted in his written instructions to the jury.
The water polo team received some of the allegedly paid bribes, not Vavic, and the judge found “no evidence in the record to show that Vavic was accepting USC Water Polo team money for his own benefit.” The court ruled that notwithstanding this, the prosecution claimed that by accepting that money, he was acting against the interests of the university.
FIRST RED CARPET APPEARANCE FOR LORI LOUGHLIN SINCE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL
There is nothing intrinsically wrong, Talwani argued, with a private university receiving payment in exchange for a student’s enrollment. The government’s case is further undercut by the fact that USC was not advised to return the funds once the scam was discovered.
The “Operation Varsity Blues” case resulted in the conviction of more than 50 individuals. They include Mossimo Giannulli, Lori Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, and TV actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
According to Vavic’s attorney, Stephen Larson, the judge’s decision “protects Coach Vavic from an unjust conviction.”
The government’s case, he said, is based on the deliberately fraudulent assertions of confessed fraudster Rick Singer, as the court acknowledged in granting a fresh trial. There is no proof that Coach Vavic ever exploited gifts to the USC water polo team for his own gain, as we have shown and the Court has now confirmed.