SAN DIEGO – A San Diego County Superior Court judge on Friday denied a request by attorneys for former University of Southern California running back Reggie Bush for a gag order in a civil suit filed against him by one of the financiers of a failed sports marketing company.
Judge Joan Lewis also ordered that the trial in the case begin March 13, 2009. Lewis further ordered settlement talks and compelled attorneys to finalize dates for depositions of all parties.
New Era Sports & Entertainment financier Lloyd Lake has charged in the suit that he contributed to the approximately $300,000 in benefits Bush allegedly received from the would-be marketers. Lake is seeking approximately $300,000 in damages. Bush later chose to be represented by marketing agent Mike Ornstein.
Bush has already reached a settlement with Michael Michaels, the other New Era financier. Michael is believed to have received $300,000 in the settlement, which included a confidentiality clause.
Lewis' order opens the door for further scrutiny of charges that Bush received extra benefits while he was playing at USC. If the NCAA rules that Bush received the benefits, he could be ruled retroactively ineligible. Since some of the benefits date back to the 2004 season, the Trojans' national championship that season could be rescinded. USC could face further NCAA sanctions and Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy could be in jeopardy.
Attorneys for Lake and Bush have battled for months about depositions. Lake walked out of his deposition in February when a private security guard accompanying Bush's attorneys brought a gun to the proceeding.
Bush's attorneys have not made Bush, his mother Denise Griffin or stepfather LaMar Griffin available for depositions. They also asked for protective orders so that none of them would be deposed.
A Yahoo! Sports investigation in April 2006 first reported Bush received the benefits. Other media outlets have followed up on the report.
Bush's attorneys had asked the court and Lake's attorneys for the gag order this week. Bush and his attorney, David Cornwell, had previously charged Lake with extortion in the case. The FBI investigated Lake for extortion in 2006, but has never charged him. Lake is a convicted felon and documented gang member who has served time in prison.
Jason Cole and Charles Robinson are national NFL writers for Yahoo! Sports.