Jovan Vavic Deserves New Trial, Judge Rules

Water Polo Team

A motion for former University of Southern California (USC) water polo coach Jovan Vavic to receive a new trial was granted after the judge found evidence of an unfair trial, multiple media outlets reported.

Following Mr. Vavic’s conviction in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions case, partners Stephen G. Larson and Koren Bell filed a motion for a new trial for their client, which U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani granted in a rare instance.

The New York Times called the order to move forward with a new trial “a striking victory for a defendant after a string of guilty verdicts and guilty pleas involving parents and coaches and others embroiled in the scandal.”

Evidence was introduced to Judge Talwani that found the trial to be possibly unfair to Mr. Vavic. Law360 reported that Judge Talwani wrote in her order granting Mr. Vavic a new trial on Sept. 15, “There was no evidence in the record to suggest that [Mr.] Vavic was taking USC Water Polo team money for his own benefit,” Judge Talwani wrote. “To the contrary, the government stipulated that there was no reason to believe that [Mr.] Vavic misused the university funds in the USC Water Polo gift account.”

Instead, The Wall Street Journal reported, Judge Talwani found that “the government conflated a payment to the USC Water Polo team with a payment to [Mr.] Vavic.” In Mr. Vavic’s March 2022 trial, Judge Talwani said that prosecutors “flatly ignored the court’s instructions to the jury about what constitutes a bribe.”

Judge Talwani further “expressed her skepticism with prosecutors’ theory that USC could be considered a ‘victim’ in the scheme while also receiving the money paid by wealthy parents in order to secure their children’s admission to the selective school,” Law360 added.

Finally, Law360 noted, “Judge Talwani also took issue with the government building much of its case on out-of-court statements made by [William “Rick”] Singer, an admitted fraudster whose questionable credibility kept him off the witness stand throughout the Vavic trial.”

In his statement to the press, Stephen said, “The Court’s thoughtful opinion protects Coach Vavic from a wrongful conviction. In granting a new trial, the Court recognizes what we have long argued—the government’s case is built on the knowingly false statements of admitted fraudster Rick Singer. As we have demonstrated and the Court now confirms, there is no evidence that Coach Vavic ever used donations to the USC water polo program for his own benefit.”

Read the full article by Anemona Hartocollis of The New York Times here (subscription required), the full article by Chris Villani of Law360 here (subscription required) and the full article by Melissa Korn of The Wall Street Journal here (subscription required). Other media coverage includes:


Subscribe to our mailing list

Sign up to get news, client alerts, and other updates from Larson delivered to your inbox.
Get the latest updates via RSS RSS Feed What is RSS?
We use cookies on this site to enhance your experience. By using our website, you accept our use of cookies.