Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis gets an invitation.
In a letter obtained by SB Nation dated May 17, 2017, Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher, Chief Hearing Officer of the NCAA Division 1 Committee on Infractions, instructs counsel for five former Ole Miss football staffers and one current assistant coach, as well as NCAA Vice President of Enforcement Jon Duncan and Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter:
The panel will request student-athlete Leo Lewis attend the infractions hearing. Mr. Lewis’ grant of immunity related to this case is predicated on his full cooperation in the infractions process. In addition, Bylaw 19.2.3 establishes a responsibility to cooperate. Part of that duty to cooperate is ‘to make full and complete disclosure of any relevant information, including any information requested by the … relevant committees.’ More specifically, Bylaw 188.8.131.52.1 authorizes the panel to request specific individuals to attend the infractions hearing, including enrolled student athletes.
Mr. Lewis’s participation at the hearing is consistent with the expectation of cooperation on which his grant of immunity was predicated. … Mr. Lewis will receive an appearance letter.
The letter also states that the panel can ask questions of Lewis at the hearing “that it believes necessary to decide this case.”
While I’m sure every Ole Miss fan with a grudge has visions of Jack McCoy breaking a witness on the stand, it’s not going to be that kind of show. To begin with,“… lawyers involved in the case expect that Lewis will field questions only from members of the committee and not from lawyers representing Ole Miss coaches or the University of Mississippi.”
You’re no fun, NCAA.
Also, there’s this whole limited immunity thing Lewis is operating under.
Lewis was granted limited immunity by the NCAA in exchange for his testimony. SB Nation has confirmed that Lewis spoke to the NCAA under immunity on three occasions between August and December of 2016.
Limited immunity protects an individual (“prospective student-athlete, current or former student-athlete or current or former institutional employee”) from certain consequences for violating NCAA legislation. Limited immunity is an investigative tool that allows information to be elicited from an individual concerning his or her potential involvement in or knowledge of NCAA violations, with the understanding that the NCAA will not put the individual at-risk in the infractions process by bringing identified allegations against him or her.
Basically, with limited immunity, Lewis can speak freely to the NCAA without his statements impacting his eligibility at MSU.
That essentially means the committee will be going over the same ground that’s already been plowed with Lewis in his three prior interviews. (And, remember, Ole Miss’ lawyers weren’t allowed to grill Lewis in any of those; in fact, they weren’t even permitted to attend the third one.)
However, it has to be said that the Rebel Rags suit complicates things for Leo Lewis.
Lewis’ inclusion at the COI is potentially massive. Multiple legal teams involved in representing individuals named in the NCAA’s investigation, as well as the Rebel Rags civil suit, have cited inconsistencies and contradictions in Lewis’ comments to the NCAA.
If Lewis doesn’t show, the NCAA revokes his immunity, which is not an outcome you’d think he’d welcome, so it’s reasonable to expect him to appear. It’s also reasonable to expect that he’ll be well prepped by his lawyer. He’d better be, because you know there will be other lawyers parsing every syllable he utters at the hearing.
If you’re a Georgia fan, as someone pointed out the comments yesterday, the timing for this is fortuitous.
The date for the COI hearing for Ole Miss has not yet been determined, but multiple sources have confirmed to SB Nation that a date in mid-September or mid-October is likely. In addition, the hearing likely won’t occur at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, but instead at an undisclosed location closer to the University of Mississippi’s campus in Oxford.
Georgia hosts Mississippi State on September 23rd. Think that could be more a little distracting as Dan Mullen gets his team ready to come to Athens?