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Carroll and McNair may have to testify in Bush case

May 03, 2008|David Wharton and Gary Klein | Times Staff Writers

SAN DIEGO -- USC Coach Pete Carroll and one of his assistants could be summoned into the courtroom as part of the civil lawsuit involving Reggie Bush, an attorney in the case said Friday.

A would-be sports marketing agent, Lloyd Lake, has claimed he gave Bush nearly $300,000 in cash and gifts while the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner was playing college football for the Trojans. Lake's attorney, Brian Watkins, said Carroll and running backs coach Todd McNair could play a role in his trial strategy.

"Both Pete Carroll and Todd McNair are most likely going to be witnesses," Watkins said by telephone after a morning court hearing. "I can't talk about what we're going to be asking them."

Carroll was linked to the case after Lake alleged that he overheard a telephone conversation between the coach and Bush's stepfather. Carroll could not be reached Friday.

Lake also claimed to have met McNair on several occasions while Bush was at USC. McNair has previously said he was not aware of any alleged wrongdoing. Friday, he declined to comment.

Both coaches have spoken to NCAA investigators who want to know if Bush and his family accepted improper benefits and, just as important, if USC knew.

The concurrent legal case has been mired in quarreling between Watkins and Bush's cadre of lawyers led by David Cornwell. On Friday, Superior Court Judge Joan M. Lewis set a trial date for March 13, 2009, and warned both sides that she was losing patience.

Twice, she sent attorneys to an anteroom to schedule pretrial depositions for Lake, Bush and his parents. When that failed, she ordered them to her chambers and quipped to a man, "Can you go back to my chambers and knock a few heads around for me?"

Returning to the courtroom, Lewis announced that Lake would be deposed by Bush's attorneys on June 5 and 6. Bush is to give statements under oath on June 23. LaMar Griffin, his stepfather, and mother Denise are to give depositions shortly thereafter.

The judge also denied a defense request that deposition transcripts be kept confidential. Bush's attorneys suggested they might revisit the issue. Watkins reiterated that he would consider handing the transcripts to the NCAA.

Investigators have already interviewed Lake.

If the NCAA finds that Bush accepted improper benefits and that USC knew or should have known, the Trojans could face sanctions including the forfeiture of victories from their 2004 national championship season and the 2005 season in which they played in the title game.

Bush, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints, has repeatedly said that neither he nor his family did anything wrong.

In a January interview, Lake said he believed that USC officials were aware of the alleged cash and gifts, but offered no evidence.

After Friday's hearing, both sides claimed victory.

"Finally we have ironclad dates when Lake has to testify under oath," Cornwell said outside the courtroom.

Lake, a convicted felon, walked out of a February deposition, angered that Cornwell had brought an armed security guard. On Friday, Lewis ruled that no security guards can be present at the June deposition.

"They don't get to bring any gunmen," Watkins said.

Lewis ordered the parties to attend a settlement conference before Feb. 20, 2009.

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david.wharton@latimes.com

gary.klein@latimes.com

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