GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Six men charged in a federal investigation that has led to a major scandal in the University of Florida athletic program were found guilty Friday of conspiring to sell cocaine to university athletes and others.
A federal court jury deliberated only five hours before also finding Carl Griffin, Clarence Fox and Lawrence Hill, all of Gainesville, guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Found guilty of conspiracy to distribute the drug along with Griffin, Fox and Hill were Eric Eugene 'Ice' Scott and Kelvin 'Cabbage' McCray, both of Gainesville, and Luis Viera of Miami.
U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul ordered the six held without bond until their sentencing Jan. 22. Each faces prison terms of 10 years to life.
Prosecutors had said the six defendants were involved in a cocaine-distribution scheme that sold drugs as far away as North Carolina and Delaware. But the defense claimed there was no real organization.
Testimony in the trial began last week with the possibility that several former University of Florida athletes and coaches would be called to testify about drug use among Gator athletes, but only two former players appeared.
One of them was former Gator basketball star Vernon Maxwell, who now plays for San Antonio in the National Basketball Assciation. Maxwell testified he had bought cocaine during his college career from at least two of the defendants, Scott and McCray.
Maxwell was granted immunity from prosecution because he cooperated with federal investigators. In his closing argument, defense attorney Robert Warren accused Maxwell of lying to the court.
'Mr. Maxwell is under the unique pressure of having his life's ambition hanging in front of his face,' Warren told the jury. 'He knows that if he is convicted on felony drug charges, his career in the NBA is over.'
The trial is one result of a federal investigation that began more than 18 months ago. A total of 11 people were indicted by a grand jury, but two defendants won postponements and three others pleaded guilty.
Although prosecutors downplayed the involvement of the accused with the University of Florida's athletic program, the fallout from the federal investigation has nevertheless had its effect.
Bits and pieces of grand jury testimony, in which former athletes testified about drug use as well as illegal cash payments from coaches and boosters, have been publicized.
Last month, the university forced both head football coach Galen Hall and head basketball coach Norm Sloan to resign. Two assistant basketball coaches were also let go.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association has been involved in the investigation almost since the outset and could announce penalties against the school as a result. The school has been on NCAA probation since 1985 for recruiting violations and, if hit again with NCAA sanctions, could face the 'death penalty,' the abolishment of the football and basketball programs for two years.