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USC interviews De'Anthony Melton for second time in bribery case while he remains sidelined

USC officials interviewed De’Anthony Melton on Tuesday for the second time as part of the school’s investigation into a college basketball bribery and corruption case, his attorney said, but the sophomore remains sidelined.

Though Melton hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, USC has held him out of the school’s first six games after federal prosecutors alleged a close family friend, David Elliott, accepted $5,000 in exchange for agreeing to steer him to use a specific sports agent and financial advisor.

Melton’s attorney, Vicki I. Podberesky, said USC wanted to ask her client about text messages it found in a review of data from his cellphone. He voluntarily turned over the cellphone data and bank records last month.

Melton’s teammates have supported him with several gestures. Junior Chimezie Metu tweeted a picture of a white T-shirt with #FREEDMELT on the front in black letters. Sophomore Nick Rakocevic added on Twitter: “I need my boy back on the court #FreeDman.” Fellow sophomore Harrison Henderson tweeted a similar message.

The basketball team at Crespi High, where Melton played, wore the T-shirts during warm-ups before a recent game. And Cassius Stanley, one of the state’s top recruits in the 2019 class, tweeted his support for Melton.

The school previously interviewed Melton, his mother, Monique Young, and Elliott. Podberesky said Elliott told her he didn’t take any money. If he did, it could violate NCAA rules and potentially force USC to forfeit games Melton played in. Though he hasn’t played in a game, Melton hasn’t been suspended or declared ineligible while the matter is investigated.

Security camera footage first reported by The Times last week showed Elliott meeting would-be sports agent Christian Dawkins, financial advisor Munish Sood and an undercover FBI agent in the lobby of a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. The undercover agent put an envelope on the table in front of Elliott. Dawkins eventually picked it up, put it in a pocket and is seen with the envelope in his possession until he gets into a car driven by Sood.

Federal prosecutors said the meeting was arranged at the behest of USC associate head coach Tony Bland. He pleaded not guilty to four charges in the case and has been on administrative leave since September.

nathan.fenno@latimes.com

Twitter: @nathanfenno

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