New Jersey 'Bridgegate' Scandal to Be Examined in Adidas Corruption Trial

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 16, 2020

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 06: The adidas logo with an Italian target on the Juventus first team home shirt displayed on May 6, 2020 in Manchester, England (Photo by Visionhaus)
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has requested attorneys submit briefs regarding the potential impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's May 7 "Bridgegate" ruling on the first college basketball corruption trial, most notably three convictions involving Adidas.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach wrote the following:

"The Second Circuit wants federal prosecutors and defense attorneys to explain how that ruling might affect the convictions of former Adidas executive James Gatto, Adidas consultant Merl Code and aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins, who were convicted in October 2018 for their roles in pay-for-play schemes to steer high-profile recruits to Adidas-sponsored programs."

Per Schlabach on March 5, 2019, the three men were convicted of pay-for-play schemes designed to steer top recruits toward programs sponsored by the athletic apparel and footwear brand.

Adidas executive James Gatto received nine months in federal prison, and ex-Adidas consultant Merl Code and agent Christian Dawkins each got six months.

Schlabach wrote the following on their charges:

"In October, a federal jury in New York convicted the three men of felony charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud after a three-week criminal trial. They were accused of funneling money from Adidas to the families of high-profile recruits to ensure they signed with the sneaker company and certain financial planners and business managers once the players turned pro."

The aforementioned schemes were part of a larger pay-for-pay scandal that affected college basketball nationwide, which runs deeper than the involvement regarding Adidas.

Per Nina Totenberg of NPR, the Bridgegate scandal involved the closure of two of three access lanes from Fort Lee, New Jersey, onto the George Washington Bridge, which provides mass access to New York City. The closures occurred over four days in September 2013.

It was later discovered that aides of then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered the lanes closed because the Fort Lee mayor, Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, refused to endorse Christie's gubernatorial bid for re-election in 2013.

Christie claimed he was unaware of the charges and fired the aides, among them bridge administrator William Baroni, chief of staff David Wildstein and deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly.

Wildstein pleaded guilty, and Baroni and Kelly were convicted, and those convictions held in federal appeals court. They did not hold in the Supreme Court, though, with Totenberg writing the following May 7:

"The high court said the evidence presented to the jury 'no doubt shows wrongdoing—deception, corruption, abuse of power.' But because the aides involved in the scheme did not obtain money or property for themselves, they did not violate the fraud statutes under which they were prosecuted."

As far as the connection between the two, the question is now whether the three men convicted in the Adidas corruption scandal committed federal crimes in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling.

Per Schlabach, defense attorneys claimed they broke NCAA rules, but the federal government argued otherwise, saying that the efforts to steer prospects to certain schools prevented federally funded universities from signing those prospects.