Attorneys question Katina Powell's decision to talk to NCAA - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Attorneys question Katina Powell's decision to talk to NCAA

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Photo from "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," from Indianapolis Business Journal Book Publishing. Photo from "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," from Indianapolis Business Journal Book Publishing.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Defense attorney Ryan Vantrease said he has one "cardinal rule" when representing someone who is under investigation.

"Don't talk to anybody," Vantrease, a former prosecutor, said in an interview.

"You don't want to unnecessarily provide them with any self-incriminating evidence."

So, Vantrease, among other local defense attorneys, was caught by surprise when the lawyer for Katina Powell, the self-described former escort, said she would speak with the NCAA about allegations involving sex with U of L recruits and players - arguing she has nothing to lose.

"There is no reason for her not to talk to the NCAA now and meet with the NCAA now and that's gonna happen very soon," attorney Larry Wilder told WDRB last week. "And the NCAA will have the full and absolute complete benefit of all the information and all the documentation; all the cell phones and all the journals that the Commonwealth's Attorney now's going to get through a subpoena."

But Vantrease and other defense attorneys argue there is at least one good reason for Powell not to talk to the NCAA.

"He says she has nothing to lose; Hell yeah, she does," said Louisville defense attorney Paul Gold. "She can get indicted for something."

Powell alleges that former University of Louisville director of basketball operations Andre McGee paid her more than $10,000 over four years to provide escorts for recruits and players.

Powell wrote in her book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules," that her daughters performed with her, though it is unclear if they were underage at the time. Powell told a local TV station that her daughters didn't join her in the adult business until 2013.

But in the book, it says her daughter Lindsay was performing with Powell and other women in strip acts at age 16, and in other places the book clearly describes another daughter, Rod-Ni, in alleged parties with U of L players in 2011. It's also not known if any U of L recruits might have been underage.

A Jefferson County grand jury has already subpoenaed records from the IBJ Book Publishing division, publisher of "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen."

Gold argues that anything Powell tells NCAA investigators can be subpoenaed by a Jefferson County grand jury and used against her by prosecutors. While misdemeanor crimes have a one-year statute of limitations, felony charges can be prosecuted at any time.

So Powell's comments could open her up to felony charges of wanton endangerment of a minor -- if it's proven her daughters or recruits were underage -- or promoting prostitution.

Last week, Wilder said to a WDRB reporter in a text message: "It became clear that the commonwealth's attorney was going to prosecute her." At that point, he wrote, there was no value in "not talking to the NCAA."

But Wilder did not answer another follow-up question on Monday as to whether talking with the NCAA could aid prosecutors in developing a criminal case against Powell.

Several defense attorneys contacted by WDRB balked at the idea.

"It is, in my opinion, ill-advised for a criminal defense attorney to allow his client to be subjected to questions which could lead or assist in the prosecution," said defense attorney Frank Mascagni. "I see no gain. None."

If the goal is more publicity for her book, Mascagni said, that could backfire if Powell is convicted of a crime.

"You can't profit from your own wrongdoing in Kentucky," he said. The money she makes from the book, if she is convicted, could be seized by the state.

Powell has not responded to messages left at her home and cell phone.

While Wilder's move is not a page out of the typical defense attorney's playbook, not all lawyers see it as a bad move.

"She has made so many statements to so many people -- the book, ESPN, the View -- at this point, it may very well be in her best interest to cooperate with any investigative agency involved in this," said defense attorney Brian Butler, who used to a be an assistant Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney and a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office. "She's already said she was involved in this stuff. There’s no going back now."

Butler said assisting in investigations -- serving as a whistleblower essentially -- may help Powell in the long run, lessening the severity of any punishment she receives.

There is one caveat, Butler said.

"If she talks to investigators and admits her daughters were underage, that would be a terrible decision on her part," he said. "That would be devastating to her legal situation."

Asked if the NCAA would be required to share the information they get from Powell with prosecutors, most lawyers who spoke to WDRB believe the NCAA would have to honor any subpoenas -- though defense attorney Steve Romines said he was unsure.

"We're kind of treading on new ground right now," he said.

Assistant Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Cooke, a spokesman for the office, said he doesn't know of any statutory provisions that would allow the NCAA to avoid turning over information to a grand jury.

Cooke said a grand jury could subpoena records and ask for testimony from anyone at the NCAA who spoke with the subject of an investigation.

"I don't know anything that sets them apart from other organizations," subject to subpoenas, Cooke said of the NCAA.

But Romines, who has handled several high-profile defendants, questioned how valuable any interview with the NCAA would actually be.

"We don't know if the interview will be recorded. We don't know if there will be notes taken. It will not be under oath," Romines said. "If it's not recorded, it's all hearsay. I think it would be difficult to use what she said to the NCAA against her."

Romines also said Powell may believe talking with the NCAA is no big deal because prosecutors simply don't have enough evidence to convict her.

But Vantrease summed up the most common thought among the defense attorneys who spoke to WDRB about Powell voluntarily meeting with NCAA investigators.

"Why take the chance?"

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