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Monday, November 27, 2006

Virginia Attorney Says Former Tiger Shawne Williams Accepted Cash and Gifts While in School

(Yes, I know, I'm way behind. Not really though, I'm just catching up on lots of stories over the past week. As has been my policy in the past, I accept the responsibity to report the good, bad and the ugly. Hopefully, for Memphis' sake this one is just dumb and not ugly. Stay tuned for comments from the NCAA in about April 2007 on this one. ed)

Attorney drops 1 of Williams suits

By Tim McGlone, Landmark News Service

NORFOLK -- A Norfolk attorney has dropped his lawsuit against Indiana Pacers rookie Shawne Williams, but questions remain about the more than $100,000 the attorney says he was owed by Williams and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jimmy Williams.

Meanwhile, the NCAA said Thursday that it has launched an inquiry into the situation.
Attorney Carl La Mondue withdrew his suit against Williams late Wednesday, but a similar action against Jimmy Williams remains active.

Williams, a Hampton native and former Virginia Tech All-American, denied the allegations in the suit that he accepted about $55,000 in cash and gifts from La Mondue while playing at Tech.
"It's just a person trying to come back, who wants some money, to be perfectly honest with you," he told reporters at practice in Atlanta on Thursday.

"We do know the dude, but as far as me taking money from, I didn't take none. My dad hasn't taken any. It's just a claim," Williams continued. "He don't have no record of nothing."

La Mondue, has declined to comment. His Web site touts his firm's willingness to help athletes and entertainers with their contracts.

He filed suits earlier this month in Norfolk Circuit Court seeking repayment from each player, as well as Jimmy Williams' father. La Mondue claims he gave Jimmy Williams and his father $8,700 in merchandise, including clothes and shoes, phone service, hotel rooms and a tattoo, plus more than $46,000 in cash, the papers say.

The cash and merchandise were given between November 2004 and November 2005, when Jimmy Williams was a junior and senior at Tech, the suit says.

The NCAA prohibits its athletes, their family members or friends from receiving benefits while in school. Schools and players can be investigated and sanctioned for infractions. The NCAA has declined to comment on the Williams' cases.

"Today, I can confirm that we're working cooperatively with the institutions," said Jennifer Kearns, the assistant director of public and media relations for the NCAA.

But she stopped short of calling it an investigation.

"I don't know that an official investigation has been opened. It's still too early," she said.
Virginia Tech officials on Thursday said they have notified the NCAA of the Jimmy Williams' lawsuit and will consider the allegations internally as well.

"We're working in a cooperative measure with the NCAA to try to get to the bottom of this as quickly as we can, said Tech athletic director Jim Weaver.

He said he hoped that if the school was found to have had no prior notice of the alleged payments that it would be immune from sanctions.

"That would be my hope, but until we get through the process, it would simply be me speculating. To my knowledge at this point, no one had any prior knowledge of this," Weaver said.

He said he only became aware of the allegations Thursday morning.

"At this point, I'm not sure exactly what the investigative process will be. We've had a conversation with [NCAA officials] this afternoon and established a plan. That's as far I'll comment right now," he said.

Shawne Williams, who played collegiately at Memphis for one year before being drafted by the Pacers, is accused in the lawsuit of accepting from La Mondue about $9,700 in hotel rooms, airfare and cellphone service, plus $39,794 in cash, while playing for the Tigers in the 2005-06 season.

Williams' agent, Happy Walters of Los Angeles, denied the allegations and said the information in the suit, such as the dates, were wrong.

He declined to comment further Thursday.

Disputes such as these do not typically result in lawsuits. But they are indicative of a growing problem in college sports -- college athletes accepting gifts or payments from sports agents or boosters.

"It's the nature of the beast," said Ron Del Duca of Norfolk, a registered agent with the National Football League Players Association. "The last 3, 4, 5 years it's become a circus. Kids are asking for stuff. Kids not even that good, they want lines of credit."

Del Duca, who would not comment directly on the La Mondue lawsuits, said sports agents are regulated in some states, but not Virginia. North Carolina, for example, requires agents to register, and violations of rules of conduct can lead to criminal charges.

"What happens is -- and it happens a lot -- it's not just the fault of the agents. It's the faults of the players. They're asking for it; so are the parents," he said.

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