As coach of the University of Georgia's football team, Jim Donnan won some big games in the SEC, college football's powerhouse Southeastern Conference.
But it's unlikely any of those victories could match his victory Friday in a federal courtroom against the other SEC -- the Securities and Exchange Commission. Donnan was found not guilty on 41 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering.
What was the ex-coach's game plan for his Personal Freedom Bowl, and how his did his accused co-conspirator fare?
'It's Not a Crime to Not Be Very Smart'
Despite testimony from many of Donnan's formers players and friends that Donnan personally convinced them to invest millions of dollars in GLC Ltd. -- a purpoted wholesaling business that prosecutors alleged operated as a Ponzi scheme -- the defense successfully portrayed Donnan as merely another unsophisticated investor duped into the scheme by his partner in GLC, Gregory Crabtree. "It's not a crime to not be very smart," Donnan's attorney told jurors during closing arguments.
Prosecutors countered that Crabtree, the supposed mastermind, cleared less than $2 million from the scheme while Donnan and his family brought in upwards of $10 million. But jurors weren't convinced.
"I just didn't think there was enough evidence to support all of the charges," the jury foreman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I think Mr. Donnan was as big a victim in this as some of the investors who lost their money."
A Conspiracy of One
Donnan's acquittal also makes for an interesting result in the case, in which Donnan's alleged co-conspirator Crabtree had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy -- a crime that by its very definition requires two or more people to agree to commit an unlawful act.
Crabtree pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors and testified against Donnan at the trial. He now holds the somewhat dubious honor of having been convicted in a conspiracy of one -- something of a legal fiction, but one with very real consequences: Crabtree faces up to five years in prison.
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