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Ex-USC Coach Gets New Trial In Varsity Blues Admissions Scandal

A former University of Southern California coach was granted a new trial in the Varsity Blues college admissions cheating scandal after a federal judge ruled that prosecutors were misleading and potentially prejudicial to the jury, the Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani said in her ruling that while payments for Jovan Vavic’s sons’ private schooling could be considered bribes, the money given to his USC team’s account couldn’t be defined that way. “The government conflated a payment to the USC Water Polo team with a payment to Vavic,” Talwani wrote. She also said that prosecutors "flatly ignored" instructions to the jury about what constitutes a bribe. Vavic was one of 50 people charged in 2019 in connection with the fraud and bribery scheme. In April, a jury found him guilty on all counts, including conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery. On Thursday, Talwani dismissed his claim that prosecutors didn’t have sufficient evidence to score a conviction and denied his motion for acquittal. However, she agreed that statements the prosecution made during the trial misrepresented certain facts about the benefit of sending the money to the USC team, compared to the money sent for his son's high school tuition. “However distasteful, there is nothing inherently illegal about a private institution accepting money in exchange for a student’s admission,” Talwani said. She said the prosecutors would have been consistent if they argued that USC was injured because it received less money than through traditional fundraising and admissions, or that Vavic misused the USC team account. “We are very disappointed in this ruling, which we do not believe is grounded in the facts or the law,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins.

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