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First day of testimony in Todd McNair trial focuses on NCAA liaison who labeled him a “lying, morally bankrupt criminal”

Fifteen minutes before the lunch break ended Tuesday, a juror dozed near the end of a quiet hallway in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. The first day of testimony in former USC assistant football coach Todd McNair’s trial against the NCAA seemed to have taken a toll.

Much of the day in Los Angeles County Superior Court focused on a big-screen television in the front of the courtroom playing the deposition of Shep Cooper. The NCAA’s liaison to the infractions committee that sanctioned USC in the Reggie Bush extra benefits scandal, Cooper is best known for writing an email to another committee member in February 2010 that called McNair a “lying, morally bankrupt criminal, in my view, and a hypocrite of the highest order.”

“That was my opinion to one committee member based upon what I had gleaned from the proceedings,” Cooper testified in the deposition recorded in August 2012.

Two jurors appeared to fall asleep for a few minutes while the video played.

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During the deposition, one of McNair’s attorneys repeatedly pressed Cooper about the circumstances of drafting the infractions report against USC and McNair in March 2010. The attorney cited emails between committee members expressing concern about if enough evidence existed to find McNair engaged in unethical conduct as they ultimately did.

“Before a consensus was achieved on McNair, you had already started writing language concerning McNair, correct?” Bruce Broillet asked.

“I’m not sure if a consensus had been reached or not,” Cooper said. “I mean, I think maybe some of the early emails talked about a consensus, but all I know is I was told to start drafting.”

He added the allegation against McNair by the NCAA enforcement staff was “probably the starting point for the language.”

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Broillet said Cooper was the one who brought up the one-year “show cause” penalty against McNair that the coach alleges all but ended his career.

“That’s correct,” Cooper said, noting McNair’s penalty was “relatively light.”

After Cooper’s video finished, Angie Cretors, a former NCAA enforcement official who played a key role in the USC investigation, took the stand. The appearance of the first in-person witness in the trial appeared to perk up the jury.

Broillet focused on the events leading to the NCAA’s interview of Lloyd Lake in November 2007. The would-be sports agent’s testimony provided crucial to building a case against USC and McNair. The NCAA interviewed Lake more than a year after starting to investigate USC because he had been jailed.

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“You know with the passage of time people’s memories fade for what really happened in the past,” Broillet said.

“Yes,” Cretors said, “we try to get the interviews as quickly as we can.”

Broillet repeatedly pointed out that Lake is a convicted felon and allowed only NCAA representatives to attend his interview.

About a half-hour into Broillet’s questioning of Cretors, one of the jurors’ cellphones started clanging. The juror jumped up and tried to find the phone. He couldn’t. The clanging continued. L.A. Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller took it as a sign and adjourned court for the day.

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nathan.fenno@latimes.com

Twitter: @nathanfenno


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