Crime & Courts

Former KU athletic official pleads guilty in ticket theft case

A former University of Kansas athletics staff member pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Wichita to concealing and not reporting the theft of sports tickets at the school.

Jason Jeffries, 35, the former assistant director of ticket operations, is the first KU athletics employee to plead guilty in the scandal.

Speaking after the hearing, his lawyer, Thomas Haney, said his client is cooperating with the federal investigation.

"Jason has always been willing to cooperate," Haney said.

"He has nothing to hide."

Jeffries stood silently by his lawyer and declined comment when asked. He remains free on his own recognizance.

An internal investigation, released by KU in May, alleged that five athletics staffers and one consultant sold or used more than 17,000 men's basketball tickets and more than 2,000 football tickets from 2005 to 2010.

Forensic accountants calculated the value of the ticket losses at about $1 million but noted it could be as much as $3 million.

In pleading guilty, Jeffries admitted that he concealed the thefts by erasing information from a dry erase board at the university, thereby taking tickets out of a pool available to athletic program contributors.

If prosecutors find that Jeffries' cooperation is substantial enough, they have agreed to recommend to the judge that his sentence be reduced, according to his plea agreement. Otherwise, he could face as much as three years in federal prison. He also faces a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for Sept. 29.

Prosecutors also agreed not to file charges against Jeffries' wife. After the hearing, however, Haney said that Jeffries' wife had no role in the case.

"Jason's wife had no involvement, but it was something the U.S. Attorney's Office offered," Haney said. "I wasn't going to turn that down."

The hearing, judge

District Judge Wesley Brown caught the case when all three federal judges sitting in Topeka recused themselves, without explanation.

At age 103, Brown is the oldest judge in the federal system, appointed to the bench by President Kennedy in 1962. He took senior status in 1979.

Brown attended KU in the 1920s, during the "Phog" Allen era, before attending the Kansas City School of Law for his legal education.

Brown occasionally corrected lawyers who misread or sought to amplify documents they were reading into the record.

He also admonished reporters covering the hearing, noting that a federal rule prohibited any broadcasting from federal courtrooms.

"Although some courts have found that this rule does not apply to some technology, such as the Twitter, this court finds that it does apply," Brown said.

A second former KU athletics staffer, Brandon W. Simmons, is scheduled to make a court appearance in Wichita today. He also is charged with concealing and not reporting ticket thefts at KU.