BOSTON (AP) — A father was acquitted Thursday of allegedly paying a Georgetown University tennis coach to get his daughter into school in a final lawsuit involving an explosive college admissions bribery scandal.
Amin Khoury’s case is the 57th in the Operation Collegiate Blues investigation that rocked the world of higher education and college sports, and the only one to result in an acquittal in court.
Khoury was found not guilty by a jury on all counts of bribing then-Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst with cash in a brown paper bag in exchange for recruiting his daughter to the team.
Lawyers for Khouri argued that the daughter was properly accepted into the school, which they said generally favored the children of wealthy parents upon admission. They portrayed the government’s top witness as a liar who made up a story to save himself from potential tax crimes.
Khoury’s lawyer said the government’s case was seriously damaged by the testimony of Khoury’s daughter, who told jurors she had no knowledge of the Ernst payout and was not involved in any fraud.
“They accused her of being involved in this. And it was a complete lie, ”said lawyer Roy Black after the jury announced their verdict.
Unlike dozens of wealthy parents convicted in college cheating scandal featuring elite universities across the country, Khoury was not accused of collaborating with admissions consultant Rick Singer, who used his fictitious charity to pay bribes to coaches and others.
Instead, authorities said Khoury used a go-between with whom he was a college friend at Brown University to bribe Ernst. Khoury, the middleman and Ernst all played tennis at Brown, and the deal went through when the three were at a meeting at a Providence, Rhode Island school, prosecutors said.
The defense argued that the money was a gift to Ernst, who was in financial difficulty at the time because the construction of a new sports center meant he could no longer use the school’s tennis courts to run private summer camps and supplement his income.
“What did the Georgetown family do for him? They didn’t do anything,” Black told jurors during his final speech. “They abandoned him. The only family that helped him was the Khouri family and they want to turn it into a crime.”
Khoury was charged more than a year after Ernst and 49 others, including actors and prominent businessmen, were arrested in connection with an extensive scheme involving fake sports data and rigged entrance exam results.
Among those listening to closing arguments Tuesday in federal court in Boston was his father, Amin J. Khoury, who founded Wellington, Fla.-based B/E Aerospace, an aircraft interiors maker that was bought in 2017 by more than for 6 billion dollars.
Ernst did not testify at Khoury’s trial because he said he would defend his right against self-incrimination if he was called to court. He pleaded guilty to receive more than $3 million in bribes to help students get into school, and the verdict is due next month.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Kearney told jurors that Khoury’s daughter did not have the academic record to get into Georgetown and was ranked last on her high school tennis team, herself ranked last in her league.
“She had no chance of getting what she deserved,” Kearney said.
More than 50 Collegiate Blues defendants have pleaded guilty, including Full House actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman. Three others — two parents and a former USC water polo coach — were convicted in court.
Another parent was pardoned by former President Donald Trump, and one coach struck a deal where prosecutors agreed to drop his case if he paid a fine and abide by the terms of the agreement.
The longest sentence of 15 months in prison was handed down to John Wilson, a former Staples Inc. executive convicted of paying bribes to get his son to join the University of Southern California as a water polo recruit and his twin daughters to Harvard and Stanford.
Wilson and another father, Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, are appealing their convictions, and a judge recently ruled that they can remain at large while they contest the sentences.
The singer is to be sentenced in September.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Singer’s sentencing is set for September instead of August.