Potential Legal Liability From Breaking Cardinal Rules | Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

“I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to,” Katina Powell, a self-described former escort and co-author of the recently released book, Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen, recently told ESPN’s Outside the Lines. “I have no reason, or have no need to lie to anyone. Everything I’m saying is 100 percent the truth.” In Ms. Powell’s book she, along with co-author and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Dick Cady, document how former University of Louisville Men’s Basketball players and recruits attended campus dorm parties from 2010–2014 with strippers who were paid to dance and have sex with the players. Ms. Powell alleges former graduate assistant coach, Andre McGee, paid her roughly $10,000 to arrange and supply dancers for nearly two-dozen stripping and sex parties. As of October 20th, five former players and recruits confirmed many of Ms. Powell’s claims to Outside the Lines.

Besides the obvious reasons to lie: book sales, media appearances, and the opportunities that follow salacious stories, Ms. Powell could be telling the truth for the simple fact that she has created potential legal issues for herself. The book chronicles in detail how Ms. Powell, with the help of several others, ran an organized prostitution ring. Readers can view Ms. Powell’s journal entries where she recorded lists of performances and prices, how she enlisted her underage daughters to help pick up dollar bills at parties, and how she eventually “promoted” some to dancers. “Side deals” were where players and recruits could have sex with dancers who wanted to make “extra money,” though Ms. Powell claims she did not benefit directly from these deals. Ms. Powell estimates of the two-dozen or so dancers she brought to parties, only five or sex did not have sex with players. Lindsay Powell, Katina’s 24 year-old-daughter, and Rod Ni Powell, her 22-year-old daughter, told Outside the Lines they were paid over $100 per encounter to have sex with numerous former players who are now in the NBA. Another woman, who asked to go by the name of Mandy, said she went to a party in 2010 or 2011, when she was likely still 17 and in high school. However, Mandy denied the claim that sexual encounters took place that night.

Although Ms. Powell probably released the book for personal gain, her story has led to the unintended consequence of having University of Louisville Police Department open an investigation into the matter. The NCAA has similarly opened an investigation. Although engaging in prostitution in Kentucky is a Class A misdemeanor with a one-year statute of limitations, the far more serious offense of promoting prostitution is a Class D felony with no statute of limitations. Ms. Powell’s attorney, Larry Wilder, believes if the Commonwealth thinks that a crime of promoting prostitution occurred as a Class D felony, the commonwealth will have to prosecute McGee and Ms. Powell together.

The main question most Louisville basketball fans probably have is, “did head coach Rick Pitino know about all of this?” Pitino is a legend in college basketball ranks, but he could certainly be vulnerable to both NCAA sanctions and legal culpability. Ms. Powell claimed she asked McGee about whether Pitino knew about the parties, to which McGee replied, “he’s Rick. He knows about everything.” Although Pitino brushed off the allegations in early October by saying “I base things on the truth,” he has recently changed his tune this week by stating, “I don’t know if any of this is true or not. There’s only one person who knows the truth, and he needs to come out and tell the truth.” Pitino could theoretically be criminally liable for promoting prostitution, which requires a party to “knowingly advance or profit from prostitution.” At the very least, the NCAA could come down hard on him, as coaches have received suspensions and fines recently for far less. Only time will tell exactly how this situation plays out, as more details seem to emerge daily.

— Peter Martin


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