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Nebraska Athletic Department Issues New Statement Amid Scrutiny Regarding Handling of Maurice Washington Situation

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Nebraska officials try to clarify who knew what and when

Nebraska v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

It has been a very confusing couple of days since the Nebraska Athletic Department announced that kick-off time of the Spring Game and that Defensive Line Coach Mike Dawson will be leaving for the NFL. It was already at that point a huge news day especially for the off-season.

Then the report about Maurice Washington getting charged with two counts of child pornography surfaced and ever since that moment we have been running around trying to make sense of what exactly happened and more importantly, what exactly did the athletic department know about the situation.

The Omaha World-Herald published a very helpful timeline.

Because of all the questions and scrutiny over the situation, which has not shown Nebraska in a great light, the Athletic Department issued the following statement to Alia Conley, Omaha World-Herald’s Crime Reporter, to help explain how Nebraska was informed of the charges and what they knew about it.

On September 13, 2018, the UNL Police Department informed the Nebraska Athletic Department that the Nebraska Attorney General’s office was seeking to talk to Maurice Washington. UNLPD also provided contact information for Jamie Vaughn, Executive Associate Athletic Director-Compliance, to the Nebraska Attorney General’s office. UNLPD did not know the nature of the inquiry.

On September 13, Vaughn spoke with Ed Sexton in the Nebraska Attorney General’s office. He was told that the Nebraska Attorney General’s office was cooperating with a California agency and that Sexton wished to speak to Maurice Washington on their behalf. Sexton noted Maurice Washington was not in any trouble in Nebraska, and would not say if Washington was the subject of the inquiry of the California agency, a witness to a matter being investigated or anything related to the nature of why the California agency wished to speak with Washington. Vaughn stated he would look into the possibility of arranging for an interview. Vaughn had no further conversations with the Nebraska Attorney General’s office and Washington retained an attorney. Following department protocol, Vaughn informed Bob Burton, Deputy Athletic Director-Chief of Staff, and Athletic Director Bill Moos of the conversation with the Nebraska Attorney General’s office.

Given the request was coming from the Nebraska Attorney General’s office and the unknown nature of the inquiry, Football program staff introduced Maurice Washington to Jon Bruning, a former Nebraska Attorney General. Bruning had a long-standing friendship with Matt Davison, Associate Athletic Director-Football, and Head Coach Scott Frost preceding either’s employment at the University of Nebraska. Nebraska Football staff were clear to both Bruning and Washington that Washington had to be treated as a normal client and billed appropriately. Any additional questions related to the attorney-client relationship should be addressed to Bruning.

Coach Frost had subsequent communication with Bruning to determine whether the Football program needed to be concerned with the issue or take any action. Bruning did not share the nature of the inquiry due to attorney-client privilege, but noted it involved a text message from when Washington was in California and he doubted it would result in criminal charges.

No additional details on this issue were provided to anyone in the Nebraska Athletic department until an inquiry on Friday, February 8, 2019 when Michael Bott, a reporter for NBC Bay Area contacted the University noting, ‘We will be reporting soon that a University of Nebraska football player is facing felony child pornography charges, as well as misdemeanor charges related to California’s ‘revenge porn’ statute.’ Later on February 8, Bott identified the player as Maurice Washington. This was the first time any reference to the nature of these charges was known to University officials.

Maurice Washington was not enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in March of 2018, and did not enroll until the fall 2018 semester.

[Note - the author switches to Jill here as Nate had Dad Duty]

While Bruning may have been introduced to Washington since he was a “friend of a friend”, he does not practice in criminal law and may have misjudged the seriousness of the situation. His bio on the Bruning Law Group website indicates his specialty is corporate law. The fact that Washington did move on to a different attorney once it became more likely he would be facing criminal charges does seem to lend credence to the fact that no one in the athletic department fully understood the nature of the inquiry.

This is a big first test for Coach Frost and Bill Moos. How they, especially Coach Frost, handles this situation sets a precedent for future actions. If this were football season, I think you’d see Washington suspended until the legal process works itself out with the final decision made afterward.

There are two charges in this situation. The first, distributing a private sexual video to cause emotional distress, also known as California’s “revenge porn” law is a misdemeanor. The second, child pornography, is a felony under California state law.

It appears the Athletic Department is waiting for the process to work itself out before making any decisions about Maurice Washington’s future.

We should soon learn more about Coach Frost’s approach to these situations. Given the seriousness of the charges, unless we learn something new it appears that doing nothing is is likely not an option for the second year coach.

I’m sure we haven’t heard the last on this.