On an FBI-intercepted phone call from June 20, 2017 between then-Arizona men’s basketball assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson and former agent-runner Christian Dawkins, Richardson is heard saying that head coach Sean Miller was paying Deandre Ayton $10,000 a month.
The tape was played in federal court Wednesday morning as the trial of Dawkins and co-defendant Merl Code continues. Here is the transcript of the recording between Richardson and Dawkins, according to Yahoo! Sports and ESPN:
Richardson: "Ayton is on campus. Sean's got to get the (expletive) out the way and let us work.”
Dawkins: "We'll see how Sean plays it out.”
Richardson: "You know what he bought per month?"
Dawkins: "What he do?"
Richardson: "I told you–10.”
Dawkins "He's putting up some real money for them (expletive)...He told me he's getting killed."
Richardson: "But that's his fault.”
Another conversation that was played Wednesday involved Richardson and Dawkins discussing Rawle Alkins, another former UA basketball player. The conversation reportedly focused on the two deciding that Richardson did not need to use the $20,000 Dawkins’ company was going to give him to pay Alkins, because Miller was allegedly handling it.
“You already know, Sean’s taking care of Rawle and them,” Dawkins said. “So it ain’t no expense to Rawle. So that’s easy.”
With Richardson implying Miller’s involvement with Ayton, this is the first time during the trial that someone other than Dawkins or his defense attorney Steven Haney, has alleged Miller was tied to paying players at Arizona.
However, no evidence has been presented that directly proves Miller was involved with a payment in the recruitment of Ayton or Alkins, nor has there been any evidence to prove that Ayton or Alkins received any impermissible benefits.
The timeline of the initial Feb. 2018 ESPN report, which alleged that Miller was on FBI-wiretapped phone calls with Dawkins discussing a $100,000 payment for Ayton, came under question by multiple media outlets last year and Miller denied any involvement in the alleged situation.
"Let me be very, very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying Deandre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona," Miller said on March 1, 2018. "In fact, I never even met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until after Deandre publicly announced that he was coming to our school. Any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate, false and defamatory."
In addition, an attorney working for an independent law firm, hired by the University of Arizona in Feb. 2018, reviewed the allegations on Ayton receiving money. The attorney, Paul Kelly, released this statement after his review and cleared Ayton of any potential wrongdoing:
“Over the past several months, Mr. Ayton has voluntarily submitted to several interviews, by federal prosecutors and the FBI, but University and Pac-12 compliance official, by representatives of the NCAA, and by Steptoe and Johnson, the independent firm engaged by the University to review these matters. In each of these interviews, Mr. Ayton has credibly and consistently maintained that neither he or nor any member of his family, nor any representative thereof, received any money or extra benefit to influence his decision to attend the University of Arizona. Not a shred of evidence has been adduced suggesting otherwise, which federal investigators and NCAA officials have acknowledged.
“As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney with a deep understanding of the criminal investigative process, and as an NCAA legal practitioner, I can say with confidence that Deandre Ayton has abided by all applicable rules and regulations and is fully eligible to participate as a member of the Men’s Basketball team.”
During the federal basketball corruption trial, Miller’s name has come up repeatedly, including a segment where jurors heard Dawkins tell business partner Munish Sood that Miller “fronted” a deal for a player later identified as Ayton.
Miller received notice of a subpoena in late February by Haney to testify in court, but U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled prior to the trial that Miller’s testimony was “irrelevant” to Dawkins’ case and therefore, did not need to take the stand.
Even with these allegations, there has been no clear evidence establishing Miller’s direct role in paying players or that an Arizona player received payment from Richardson or Miller.
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