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Saturday
Apr292006

All Kinds of New Details

One more Bush story before I hit the hay.

"Bad News for Bush"

The New Era claim:

The lawyer for New Era Sports & Entertainment alleges that Bush's stepfather, LaMar Griffin, helped start the company with the idea that Bush would become its first star client, but the partnership turned ugly in December when Bush looked elsewhere for an agent...

...the relationship quickly disintegrated into unreturned phone calls, threatened lawsuits and a tense settlement meeting at a 2nd Street office in Santa Monica several weeks ago.

With Bush and his mother seated at a table beside their representatives, Watkins said he and a New Era executive were frisked as they entered the room, "to make sure we didn't have any tape-recording devices on us."

In another development Friday, Watkins released what he said was the content of a past text message from Bush assuring New Era executives they would be repaid.

Once again, Reggie Bush is fingered as knowing what was going on and participating in the process.

The Bush team claim:

Meanwhile, Bush's representatives — who have declined to comment on the purported business relationship — continued to assert that New Era is trying to extort millions from the athlete.

"We identified their scheme months ago and collected written evidence over the course of the months," said David Cornwell, the family's attorney. "And we provided that evidence to the NFL Players Assn. and NFL Security."

It's curious they haven't commented on the business relationship yet.  They're taking a beating in the press.

Sounds like the NFLPA isn't all that impressed with the extortion claims being made by Bush's attorney:

In a brief statement released Friday, the NFL said only that it has advised Cornwell to "consider referring these matters to law enforcement authorities" and would continue to monitor the situation. The NFLPA told the Associated Press it was investigating David Caravantes, a San Diego agent with connections to New Era.

I read this as them gently telling Cornwell that he's barking up the wrong tree.  The NFLPA has more interest in Caravantes, whose career as an agent is probably over.  One word: blackballed.

Here's more timetable information basically supporting what was reported earlier:

According to Watkins, the saga began in late 2004 when LaMar Griffin spoke to Lloyd Lake — a friend of Bush's from the neighborhood — about starting a sports marketing company. They made an unlikely pair. Griffin is a school security officer and minister, Lake a convicted felon who, according to court documents, has connections to a violent street gang known as the Emerald Hill Bloods.

So Griffin and ex-con Lake allegedly founded the company, but needed a third person:

In October 2004, the two approached a third man, Michael Michaels, a Sycuan Indian tribe member who worked for the tribe's development corporation. They spoke in a box suite after a Charger game. New Era was born

Now click your ruby red slippers together three times and you'll no longer live in a tiny apartment in East County San Diego.

According to Watkins, Griffin soon began asking for favors.

First came $28,000 to help repay family debts, Watkins said. Then, in spring of 2005, the Griffins — LaMar, wife Denise and teenage son Jovan — moved into the three-bedroom house east of San Diego that Michaels had just bought for $757,500. Watkins said the family agreed to pay a monthly rent of $4,500

Around the time of the Rose Bowl is when things turned sour for the group:

But in December, with the Trojans preparing to face Texas in the Rose Bowl, the back rent approached $54,000 and Michaels could no longer reach the Griffins by telephone.

"Then, an article came out in the paper that Reggie had narrowed his choices to five agents and he didn't mention his dad's company," Watkins said. "The next thing you know, he's hired an agent."

Bush hired sports agent Joel Segal, instead of Caravantes or another agent arranged by New Era. He had also retained Reebok consultant Mike Ornstein. Michaels and Lake began asking the Griffins to repay $300,000 — the alleged sum of unpaid rent, cash disbursements and other monies poured into New Era.

That's almost too unbelievable to be true.  Griffin, a minister of some sorts, is being fingered for swindling a deep-pocketed Tribal broker and an ex-con associate.  That takes cajones, if the allegations are true.

And for the soon-to-be-famous text message allegedly from Bush:

At some point, Watkins claimed, Bush tried to assuage New Era with a text message that read, in part, "Nobody is trying to screw u."

Why do I hunch that's going to be on a billboard somewhere in Los Angeles?

Now, for settlement talks:

Attorneys for both sides began settlement negotiations, Watkins said. Cornwell refused to comment on whether discussions took place. Watkins said Cornwell offered six figures. Watkins also provided The Times with a copy of a Feb. 13 letter he claims to have sent to Cornwell, asking for $3.2 million

ok.

"Please advise if it is your intention to involve the University in these settlement negotiations," the letter reads. "We would not object to their participation as we understand their wanting to be involved due to the fact this matter was ongoing during their Championship season of 2004 as well as the entire season of 2005, and any lawsuit filed might have an adverse effect on them."

There have been no claims that USC knew about the Griffins' connection to New Era. Coach Pete Carroll has said he was unaware of their living arrangements.

Good news for USC.  An NCAA investigation may have different findings, but one can read into this document to figure out that the New Era folks didn't feel USC was aware at the time of the business and housing deal.

And some new details about Bush's crew of representatives that he chose instead of the New Era guys:

Big-time agents have been almost smug in questioning New Era's pedigree. Yet, a decade ago, when Ornstein worked for the NFL, he pleaded guilty in a scheme to defraud the league of $350,000 and was sentenced to six months in a community correction center, ordered to pay more than $160,000 in restitution, and placed on five years' probation. Segal was fined and suspended by the NFL Players Assn. for providing money under an assumed name to a Florida State player in 1993.

Ornstein declined to comment for this article. Segal could not be reached

Finally, a peek into the potential mindset of Pac-10 investigators as they examine this story:

Ron Barker, a Pacific 10 associate commissioner for enforcement, said that such cases can be difficult for investigators looking at a number of questions.

"We have to hear the whole story," he said Friday. "Did the family get any type of preferential treatment? Did the landlord let it go and not try to collect like they would for a normal person? Did they not evict for a year when it would normally be three months?"

I'll let you digest all of that over your morning cereal or oatmeal or toast or whatever gets you going.

Enjoy the draft.

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