An award-winning former water polo coach Jovan Vavic, from the University of Southern California, who was convicted in the massive college admissions bribery fraud was given a fresh trial on Thursday by a federal court.
In Jovan Vavic’s fraud and bribery prosecution, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani determined that some government-presented evidence was untrustworthy and that prosecutors misled jurors about part of the purported bribe money.
Who is Jovan Vavic?
The men’s and women’s water polo teams at the University of Southern California (USC) previously had Jovan Vavic (born 1961/1962) as their head coach.
Vavic served as the team’s temporary head coach for the men’s national water polo team in 2012. He received 15 National Coach of the Year awards and 13 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year awards while serving as the USC head coach.
Following Vavic’s indictment in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal, he was sacked by USC in March 2019. Vavic was detained after being charged with receiving bribes totalling at least $250,000.
Jovan Vavic was found guilty of fraud and bribery in April 2022.
Vavic was born in SR Montenegro, a republic of the former SFR Yugoslavia.
Vavic was born and raised in Herceg Novi, SR Montenegro, and immigrated to America in 1984.
1992 saw Vavic graduate from UCLA with a history bachelor’s degree. He married his wife in 1990, and the two of them had four kids. He is a Rancho Palos Verdes, California, resident.
Operation Varsity Blues
Vavic, who led the USC water polo teams to 16 national titles, was found guilty in April after being detained in March 2019 as part of the widely publicised “Operation Varsity Blues” probe.
Authorities charged Vavic with accepting more than $200,000 in bribes in exchange for fabricating sports credentials and designating college applicants as water polo players in order to gain admission to USC.
According to the prosecution, Vavic also assisted in recruiting others to the scheme. They cited wiretap records in which Vavic described the scenario as “win-win” and exhorted a colleague coach who had reservations about the scheme to “just do it.”
Vavic’s water polo team as well as his children’s private school tuition.
According to the prosecution, the scheme’s central admissions consultant, Rick Singer, contributed funds to Vavic’s water polo team as well as his children’s private school tuition.
At trial, Vavic’s attorneys contended that he was only doing everything he could to raise money for his successful programme because elite Los Angeles school athletic authorities had requested it. They claimed Vavic 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 hurt the university’s” under the judge’s instructions to the jury, the judge wrote.
However, some of the allegedly paid bribes went to the water polo team rather than Vavic, and the judge found “no evidence in the record to establish that Vavic was receiving USC Water Polo team money for his own benefit.” However, the judge noted that the prosecution claimed that by accepting that money, he was acting against the interests of the university.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong, Talwani argued, with a private university receiving money 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 when the fraud was discovered.
According to Coach Vavic’s attorney,
Stephen Larson, the judge’s decision “protects Coach Vavic from an unjust conviction.”
The government’s case is based on the deliberately false assertions of admitted fraudster Rick Singer, the judge acknowledged in allowing a fresh trial, he added. 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.
Rachael Rollins, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, stated that her office is considering all of its options in reaction to the decision.
“The jury found Mr Vavic guilty on every charge, and we think they were correct,”
She issued a statement through email that read, “We are very unhappy in this verdict, which we do not believe is justified in the facts or the law.” “The jury found Mr Vavic guilty on every charge, and we think they were correct,” the prosecution said.
The “Operation Varsity Blues” case resulted in the conviction of more than 50 individuals. They include Lori Loughlin, a TV actress, and her husband, a fashion designer named Mossimo Giannulli.
Jurors found the final defendant involved in the investigation to be innocent of all charges. A second defendant received a pardon from former President Donald Trump, while a third received a bargain that will likely result in the dismissal of his case.
In just two trial days, Stephen G. Larson and Kori Bell’s defence of the former University of Southern California (USC) water polo coach was concluded today with the testimony of a single summary witness, according to Law360.
Stephen and Kori are defending Mr Vavic in the almost three-week trial against claims that he accepted payments from William “Rick” Singer, the scheme’s creator and ringleader, in exchange for securing admission seats for candidates from affluent families.
Former FBI agent Joseph Consoli, the defence’s witness, reportedly “read a series of emails apparently proving that giving a boost in the admissions process to families with substantial pockets was par for the course at the Los Angeles school,” according to Law360.
According to Law360, one email exchange described how Mr Singer was introduced to the former USC athletic department by Pat Haden, who described him as “one of the top college counsellors and a great guy” and suggested that meeting Mr Singer might be a “real opportunity” for the USC athletic department.
According to Mr Vavic, “he never brought someone in whom he did not think to be a true water polo player. In one email that was published today, [Mr.] Vavic criticised a prospective player, saying that he was “extremely weak” and “will never play for us.” In response, the prospective player might be a team manager and that “his dad was looking to help the department.”
Following the conclusion of the trial’s testimony and the jury’s release, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani presided over a “lengthy” hearing. According to Law 360, Stephen and Kori “argued that the government failed in its attempt to prove that their client intentionally engaged in any form of overarching plot.”
“[Kori] stated that the trial testimony demonstrated that dishonest USC administrator Donna Heinel personally collaborated with [Mr.] Singer is without the knowledge of many of the collegiate coaches.
As reported by Law360, “And [Kori] said it was unclear what was really discussed in a 2009 conversation with former USC soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin, who claimed to the jury at the beginning of the trial that the water polo coach encouraged him to put aside his hesitation about deceiving USC’s admissions committee with phoney recruits.
Stephen did state that calling Mr Singer as a witness would have been “worthless” when talking about the veracity of Mr Vavic’s alleged accomplices.
Stephen said, “He probably would have played everyone in this courtroom. “He always does that.”
On April 7, closing arguments are scheduled to take place, at which point the jury will decide Mr Vavic’s case.