Feds: no cases vs. Haskins, Gangelhoff

by Elizabeth Putnam

In two separate decisions, the U.S. Justice Department said it would not prosecute former University men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins or Jan Gangelhoff, previously an academic counselor in the athletics department.

The two were investigated on charges relating to the Gophers men’s basketball academic scandal that unfolded in March 1999.

On Wednesday, Ron Meshbesher, Haskins’ attorney, called Justice Department prosecutor Joe Walker after reading a Star Tribune report that said Gangelhoff would not be prosecuted. The report also said the Gangelhoff decision might indicate a similar outcome in Haskins’ case.

Walker confirmed to Meshbesher that Haskins would also not be prosecuted but did not elaborate on the reasons behind the decision.

“Once you get a decision like that, you really don’t care why.” Meshbesher said.

Immediately after speaking with the prosecutor, Meshbesher said, he called Haskins.

“He needed some good news in his life and this burden lifted off of his shoulders,” Meshbesher said. “I could tell in the tone of his voice that he had tears in his eyes.”

Haskins’ mother Lucy Haskins died Sunday at age 89.

Meshbesher said he had not heard from Walker about the case since October and was pleased with the outcome.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said he was informed Wednesday of the outcome in Haskins’ case and said he could not comment further.

Haskins’ legal troubles are not yet over. The University and the former coach are in arbitration to
determine how much money Haskins will give back to the University from the $1.5 million contract buyout he received in June 1999.

If Haskins and the University do not reach an agreement by the end of April and have it approved by a judge, the case will go to trial.

Both Meshbesher and Rotenberg said the U.S. Justice Department decision would not affect the arbitration’s outcome.

On Tuesday, Fred Bruno, Gangelhoff’s attorney, received word from Walker that the investigation surrounding Gangelhoff’s role in the academic scandal was over and she would not be prosecuted.

Gangelhoff admitted in March 1999 she wrote 400 papers for at least 18 players over six years. The admission led to an unveiling of widespread academic fraud in the men’s basketball program.

Jim Lord, Gangelhoff’s primary attorney, expressed relief when he learned the news from Bruno.

“I never felt what she did
justified prosecution from the Justice Department,” Lord said.

Gangelhoff was charged in U.S. District Court in September 2000 with a felony count of misappropriating federal financial aid grants. She was accused of enabling a former men’s basketball player to fraudulently collect a federal Pell Grant.

Lord said he spoke with Gangelhoff several times Tuesday and personally delivered the news that she would not face a trial.

“I told her straight out that the government will not be prosecuting her,” Lord said. “It took her a while to realize what I said, but she was very happy.”

Gangelhoff was expected to plead guilty in exchange for no prison time and her testimony against Haskins, but U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson dismissed the charge and criticized the plea agreement as too broad.

The case halted with no word from the Justice Department for more than a year until Tuesday’s news.