College bribery scandal trial delayed after judge gets COVID

FILE - Jovan Vavic, a former University of Southern California water polo coach, arrives at federal court in Boston, March 25, 2019, to face charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. Opening arguments began, Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Boston federal court in Vavic's racketeering case, the only coach of the many implicated to take his case to trial. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) (Steven Senne, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BOSTON – The trial of a former water polo coach at the University of Southern California, has been postponed after the presiding judge contracted the coronavirus, a court official confirmed Wednesday.

Judge Indira Talwani received a positive COVID-19 test, prompting the suspension of the case against Jovan Vavic in Boston federal court until Monday, court spokesperson Carolyn Meckbach said.

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No other COVID-19 cases have been identified, she added. The trial opened earlier this month and is expected to last about four weeks.

Prosecutors say Vavic accepted more than $200,000 in bribes to fake athletic credentials and designate college applicants as water polo recruits so they could gain admission into the elite Los Angeles school.

Lawyers for Vavic say the 60-year-old coach, who guided USC’s men’s and women’s water polo teams to 16 national championships, never took bribes.

They maintain that some $100,000 was deposited directly into a USC account to benefit the water polo teams while about $120,000 in payments for the private high school tuitions of Vavic's sons were actually scholarships awarded by a nonprofit run by William Singer, the mastermind of the bribery scheme.

Vavic, who was fired by USC following his arrest in March 2019, is the only coach of the many implicated in the scheme to challenge his charges in court.

In all, nearly 60 people were charged in the investigation dubbed by authorities as “Operation Varsity Blues.”

Among them were prominent coaches from Yale and other elite schools, and wealthy and famous parents such as Full House star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli.

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