Tarnished Heisman, published by Simon & Schuster and written by Don Yaeger and Jim Henry, is officially out, and not surprisingly it has already received a vast array of critical response. But Reggie Bush, speaking from the recent Sundance Film Festival, which he attended with girlfriend Kim Kardashian (below), eschewed making any book reviews and instead claimed that Lloyd Lake and his attorney, Brian Watkins, are playing hard to get, ducking telephone calls and deposition requests. “It’s cowardice,” Bush told ESPN.com’s Sam Alipour. “You take their shots in the media, but they won’t show up in court…”
Over at Money Players, however, Marc Isenberg mentions two glaring problems with Yaeger and Henry’s piece:
“One, Lloyd Lake, a convicted criminal, was paid by Simon & Schuster for his ‘story.’ Lake clearly had an axe to grind against Reggie Bush for allegedly taking the money and running to a different sports agency. This book falls somewhere in the middle between investigative journalism (Yaeger and his writing partner have solid reputations) and tabloid journalism (paying for sources to cooperate).
Two, the book relies heavily on secretly taped conversations that took place between Lake and Bush and Lake and Bush’s stepfather, LaMar Griffin. Yaeger on the tapes: ‘Frankly, without the tapes, I don’t think you do this book.’ Under California Penal Code 632 it is a crime to record a conversation without all other party’s consent. I brought this point up last January. The bottom line is that much of the most salacious information used to bolster claims made in Tarnished Heisman were obtained in violation of the law.”
The trouble with this, however, is that the California Penal Code lacks jurisdiction in the court of public opinion, which is Yaeger and co-author Jim Henry’s desired audience, not some courtroom comprised of judge and jury. To that extent, just because certain pieces of evidence were arguably obtained illegally does not mean that, outside of the fickle confines of the courtroom, they should lack moral integrity in the public eye. How many otherwise legitimate police searches for example, turn up credible evidence that is later determined to be inadmissible due to judicial discretion and some legally and legislatively contrived technicality (i.e. the ‘fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine,’ friend of defense attorneys everywhere)? In this case, if anything, doesn’t the fact that Bush and Griffin were unaware that they were on the record during the disputed conversations in question only increase the odds that whatever they did disclose on said tapes was indeed accurate, truthful and wholly reliable?
But the question remains, what exactly is on the tapes? Lake used his lawsuit against Bush as a reason to deny USA Today access to tapes that he said he made of Bush and Griffin—the very same tapes for which Yaeger and publisher paid so handsomely as a foundation of his investigation. But it seems highly unlikely that Yaeger would risk his entire reputation, and over 20 years of journalistic integrity, just so he could single out one player and maliciously misrepresent the contents of certain tapes in some contrived effort to sell more books. It is more likely that the tapes, which Yaeger and Henry excerpt throughout their book, contain legitimately damning admissions by Bush and Griffin. Given these likelihoods, a reader can reasonably consider the recorded conversations as legitimate evidence against Bush and Griffin–regardless of what some state penal code might dictate.
Moreover, as to the first point, Lake’s sordid past would arguably be valid ground to impeach his credibility as a witness (although that would be up for legal debate as well, as any student taking Evidence could attest) in court. However, should the mere fact that Lake has a criminal history (he is characterized as a ‘career offender’ in a U.S. District Court Southern District of California pre-sentence report that Lake provided to Yaeger and Henry); that he was paid by Simon & Schuster for his services with the book (who wouldn’t do the same thing in Lake’s shoes? He’s broke); and moreover that he has an “axe to grind” with Bush (I would too if I thought someone owed me almost $300K), completely discredit the gist of his account, especially since it is also backed up by a plethora of written evidence, circumstantial and otherwise? Maybe. But maybe not. Reasonable minds can differ here. But to prematurely write off Lake’s version of events simply because he once ran with the Emerald Hills Blood Gang, and is now seeking to gain monetarily, seems as premature and “tabloid” of a position as any. The fact is, undoubtedly Bush has as much reason to lie as Lake. The real question is, which party has more of one? Or are they both lying to a degree? Could this be a case of duel extortionists unwittingly falling into the very same web?
Lake’s background, which a recent USA Today piece delved into, is an interesting one. Lake, 34, says that he first met Bush when Bush was a sophomore at Helix High in La Mesa, Ca. (Lake is a Helix High alum). A friendship then developed between him, Bush and Bush’s family, Lake says. Ultimately, Lake says it was his intention to start New Era Sports & Entertainment to get involved in “a legitimate business, to turn my life around.” And [New Era business partner and real estate investor] Michael Michaels, he says, wanted to expand the business ventures of his Sycuan tribe and help raise its profile. By borrowing $90,000 from his mother, a San Diego real estate investor, in October 2004, Lake did just that. And the next month, Lake says, after Bush confirmed he would join New Era, Lake, Michaels and Griffin formed a partnership. This, Lake purports, is when the demands for money began by Bush and the Griffins. The court papers go on to say the Griffins “had fallen on hard times financially and required immediate and significant financial assistance to support their respective lifestyles,” including “living and lifestyle expenses” of Bush. It’s also when Lake began taping conversations, at his mother’s suggestion, because he began to worry that Bush and Griffin would renege on their verbal promises and agreements.
The “truth” of the matter—which is murkier than a Wire episode, may never be exposed, regardless of how Lake’s lawsuit plays out. Which means that an ever-discerning public, not some San Diego District Court, may ultimately decide Bush’s true fate.