U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani on Thursday ordered a new trial for a former University of Southern California water polo coach convicted of accepting bribes to assure the admission of some applicants, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jovan Vavic, the former coach, was convicted in April.
Talwani ruled Thursday that prosecutors erred in their argument to jurors about some of the alleged bribe money.
Prosecutors said Vavic took more than $200,000 in bribes to fake athletic credentials and designate college applicants as water polo athletes to get them admitted to USC. Authorities also said he helped recruit others, pointing to wiretap transcripts in which Vavic called the arrangement a “win-win” situation and encouraged a fellow coach with doubts about the scheme to “just do it.”
Vavic’s lawyers argued that he was just fundraising for the university.
The judge said, “However distasteful, there is nothing inherently illegal about a private institution accepting money in exchange for a student’s admission … The government’s argument is further undermined here where there was no suggestion that USC returned the money once the scheme was revealed.”
Also, she said, “there was no evidence in the record to suggest that Vavic was taking USC water polo team money for his own benefit.”