It has been three years since the death of Logan Young, the Alabama booster who — before his untimely death — was found guilty in federal court of "conspiracy to commit racketeering" and "crossing state lines to commit racketeering," both felonies. He was facing six months in prison.
But did Young actually commit a crime, or merely violate the recruiting rules of the NCAA?
William Anderson and Candice Jackson raise the question in a lengthy piece at Reason.com.
They write: "The conviction of Logan Young as 'the first college sports booster sentenced to prison essentially for busting NCAA rules' [in the words of ESPN.com’s Mike Fish] is just one example of a disturbing trend: the federal criminalization of private rule breaking in the world of sports. Prosecutors are taking advantage of the drastic post-1970 expansion of the federal criminal code to conduct legal shaming exercises against notorious sporting figures, often using charges that are tangential at best to the behavior that sparked investigative interest in the first place.
"The results are a sobering reminder of just how little restraint remains on federal power when investigators set their sights on popular celebrity targets accused of unpopular rule breaking."
The NCAA levied sanctions against Alabama in 2002 after determining that Young had paid a high school coach in Memphis more than $100,000 to steer recruit Albert Means to Tuscaloosa. Enter federal prosecutors in Memphis, who sensed an opportunity for a popular prosecution in Volunteer territory, which they got in 2005.
Anderson and Jackson write: "When a federal jury in Memphis found Logan Young guilty of crossing state lines to commit racketeering, and of withdrawing the alleged payoffs to a Memphis high school football coach in increments of less than $10,000 [to stay under the threshold at which bank authorities are required to notify the federal government], the notion of derivative crime was taken to a whole new level. The racketeering charges were based on the claim that Young 'bribed a public servant,' a Class C felony under Tennessee law. But Young was never charged with bribery by a Tennessee court. His attorneys made this point when they appealed the guilty verdict, but because their client died before the appeal was heard we will never know how it would have turned out.
"If he hadn't been tied to a high-profile NCAA probation case, Young probably would not have faced any criminal charges at all. But because federal prosecutors in Memphis had legal tools that allowed them to twist certain everyday acts into federal crimes, they were able to convert NCAA violations into a criminal conviction. Given their success, other U.S. attorneys may use questionable federal laws to send more boosters and coaches to prison."
Thanks to Gary at Steroid Nation.