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Archive for Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Judge scolds former Barton coach

Both sides rest in trial that shakes Great Bend school

July 11, 2006

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— U.S. District Judge Monti Belot berated former track coach Lance Brauman on Monday for giving "evasive answers to straight questions" during the government's cross-examination of his testimony.

The judge sent jurors out of the courtroom after Brauman testified that he ran the track program at Barton County Community College "the best way that I could" during questioning by prosecutor Debra Barnett about athlete time sheets and a summer course he taught.

Brauman currently is an assistant track and field coach at the University of Arkansas. He is on trial in Wichita for eight counts, including embezzlement, theft and mail fraud, alleged to have happened while he was head track coach at the Kansas community college.

With the jurors out of the courtroom, Belot told the coach that if he gave another evasive answer, Belot would use his prerogative as federal judge to comment on witness testimony. He warned that if Brauman forced him to comment on his testimony, it would not be favorable.

A visibly shaken Brauman apologized to the judge. His defense attorney, Lee Davis, briefly took Brauman out of courtroom to talk to him before he resumed his testimony.

"You better straighten him out," Belot told Davis as the two were leaving.

With jurors back in the courtroom, Brauman acknowledged on cross-examination that he forged student signatures to time sheets.

Both sides now have rested their cases. Closing arguments were scheduled for 9 a.m. today.

Prosecutors contend Brauman participated in a scheme to give athletes work-study funds and campus jobs that paid them for work they did not do, and they also accuse him of causing false academic credentials to be sent to other schools on athletes' behalf.

The former track coach's case is the first to go to trial in a Barton County athletics scandal that spawned charges against seven coaches and the athletic director and led to the firing of the school's president.

In his earlier testimony Monday, Brauman said it was common practice at the school to use work-study and campus employment programs to make up the difference between financial aid given athletes and the cost of their schooling. The athletes did not get any work-study money themselves, but just enough work hours were credited to their student accounts so that their accounts were "zeroed out" by the end of the semester.

Brauman testified the practice had been ongoing for 20 years.

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