Joe Podelco / Photo editor
On Monday, Ohio State revealed more email correspondence between Jim Tressel and Columbus lawyer Christopher Cicero, the man who alerted the football coach of possible violations by players, which Tressel has since acknowledged he failed to disclose to OSU and NCAA officials.
The previously undisclosed emails contain advice from Cicero to players involved with Eddie Rife, the owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor.
“My suggestion is to tell (names redacted) (and any other current player) who has had contact with him (Rife), that if they are approached in person, by phone, by “target” letter, by any person in law enforcement, tell them that BEFORE they talk to anybody, or respond to anybody that they MUST contact you first… especially if some stupid media would get ‘wind’ of this… ok. Chris,” Cicero said to Tressel in an email on April 16, 2010.
Cicero also suggested that Tressel advise his players to speak to the coach if anyone questions them about the matter involving Rife, who was under a federal investigation for drug trafficking charges.
Tressel responded to Cicero three days later, asking if he had any more information on names associated with the selling of the 2008 Big Ten Championship rings. Tressel also hinted that he had a “plan” regarding the 2009 Big Ten Championship rings that had yet to arrive.
“Is there a way I could get all the ring names…I have a little plan once this year’s rings arrive….jt,” Tressel wrote.
Cicero responded a day later. He said an agent of the district attorney involved with the Rife case had the rings sold to Rife.
“Thanks!!” Tressel responded.
More than a month had passed without another email from Cicero. On June 1, Tressel emailed Cicero asking if he had any more names from the rings that had been sold. Tressel told Cicero the 2009 Big Ten Championship rings were arriving that week.
“Any names from our last discussion ?? I would like to hold some collateral if you know what I mean….. jt,” Tressel said in the email.
Cicero responded later that day, indicating that the two names he provided before were “still good.” Cicero informed Tressel that communication between himself and the district attorney had ceased and that no more names had surfaced.
OSU said the emails released Monday, which had been detailed in a Columbus Dispatch article, were “inadvertently omitted” from the initial email release on March 8. OSU also acknowledged receiving a formal list of allegations from the NCAA on Monday. The NCAA sent a letter addressed to President E. Gordon Gee explaining the current state of the investigation. OSU is expected to respond to the NCAA’s request by July 5 and a meeting is then set for Aug. 12.
In an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on March 13, Cicero confirmed he mentioned quarterback Terrelle Pryor and wide receiver DeVier Posey while informing Tressel of his players’ involvement with Rife.
In an email to The Lantern, Cicero said: “I gave an ESPN interview in March 2011, with Chris Spielman where I gave a taped interview answering every question posed to me. It is the only interview I am giving on this matter.”
Five Buckeyes, including Pryor, Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams, running back Dan Herron and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas are suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits.
Cicero played football at OSU under coach Earle Bruce, and graduated in the spring of 1984. He lettered his senior year.
In an email Tressel sent to Ted Sarniak, a 67-year-old business man from Jeannette, Pa., who befriended Pryor many years ago, Tressel seemed to vouch for the Columbus lawyer. Sarniak accompanied Pryor on his recruiting trips to OSU and other universities as a mentor figure for the young athlete. Tressel explained to Sarniak the relationship between Cicero and the university.
“This guy, Chris Cicero, is a criminal lawyer in town,” Tressel said in the email. “He played here when I was an assistant coach in the early 1980’s. He has always looked out for us.”