Lloyd Lake's then-girlfriend Maiesha Jones might be the most important, yet least known, witness in the entire saga.
While it might be easy for one to dismiss McNair's denial of Lake's story since McNair has a vested interest in avoiding unethical conduct charges, much of Lake's story unravels when you consider the testimony of Jones, a witness Lake thought would corroborate his account. Lake and his attorney made Jones available to the NCAA enforcement staff to corroborate Lake's claims that he provided benefits to Reggie Bush. USC was not permitted to attend the interview, just as it was not permitted to attend the interviews of Percy Harvin, Lake, Lake's sister, Lake's mother, and Lake's former brother-in-law.
So what did Maiesha Jones say?
First, a brief summary of Lake's version of events: Lake claims Bush introduced Lake to McNair in Bush's hotel room in San Diego in March 2005. Bush referred to Lake as the man who paid for the room. Later, Lake talked to McNair at Marshall Faulk's March 5, 2005, birthday party. At the party, Lake told McNair that Lake was starting a sports company, gave McNair a business card, and asked McNair to refer any athletes he knew going to the NFL. Lake says it was at this party that Lake and McNair exchanged phone numbers. Eight months later, on October 29, 2005, after a game against Washington State, Lake claims that McNair called him because McNair was looking for Bush and knew Bush was with Lake. Finally, the NCAA claims Lake says he called McNair in January 2006 to ask McNair to intercede and get Bush to stick to their agreement that Lake's agency would represent Bush. (Actually, Lake never said, but the NCAA massaged and molded Lake's testimony to match their theory.)
As to the Faulk birthday party, Jones testified she was with Lake the entire time. Shown a picture of McNair, she testified that she did not see him at the party (Lake's sister also attended the party with Lake and likewise did not recall seeing McNair). She also testified that Lake was not talking in depth with people about the sports agency "because, you know, it really wasn't supposed to be going on."
Most important is her testimony regarding October 29, the Washington State game. She testified that Lake called her in the middle of the night after returning to his hotel and was "very excited" because he had met some people close to Bush, including McNair. The next day, Lake showed Jones a picture of he and McNair and commented that Bush was "an idiot" for introducing Lake to McNair because Bush was supposed to be hiding his involvement with Lake.
But if, as Jones testifies, Lake met McNair for the first time on October 29, 2005, then Lake's story about the March 2005 events at the hotel room and Faulk's birthday party must be a complete fairy tale. That is, Bush didn't tell McNair that Lake was the man who paid for the hotel room March 4-5, 2005. Lake never talked to McNair about his sports agency at the Faulk birthday party on March 5, 2005. They never exchanged phone numbers.
And if Lake never gave McNair his number in March, as Lake claims, then the weighing of the circumstances surrounding the phone records showing calls from McNair to Lake on October 29 must also change. McNair's explanation gains traction: that Bush was hosting prized recruit Percy Harvin, that Bush gave McNair an alternate number to reach him because Bush was having problems with his phone, and that McNair called that number (which happened to belong to Lake) looking for Bush.
Finally, there's the January call where the NCAA claims Lake confronted McNair about Bush's imminent decision to not sign with Lake's agency. The NCAA report claims that Jones "confirmed [Lake's] account of the call." The report then quotes Jones's testimony where she appears to recount what she heard of the call.
"Just basically, like, somebody better talk to [Bush] or this is gonna go public, you know, 'cause I'm not gonna lose my money.
But what the NCAA report omits is that, shortly after the portion cited by the NCAA, Jones makes clear that her description is based on what Lake told her he intended to say. That is, she was not present for the call:
How did that conversation come up or how did you learn that from Lloyd?Jones:
Uh, I think him and Michael Michaels made the call. I just remember him saying it. You know, I remember him saying that he was gonna do it and then I remember him going over to Michael Michaels. I don't know for sure if Michael Michaels was around, but I know he was, like, at Michael Michaels when all this was going on and, uh, he had made the call. You know, he had said that he was gonna call somebody and start to make some moves.
The NCAA's assertion that Jones "confirmed" Lake's account of the call is thus highly misleading.
What, then, can we take from Jones about this January call? Well, Jones described the timing of this call as when Lake was "recording everything." The NCAA report quotes this "recording everything" remark, but doesn't appear to consider the implications. As Lake was growing increasingly concerned that the deal with Bush was crumbling, he began secretly recording conversations to protect himself. Lake provided the NCAA with recordings of conversations with Bush, Lamar Griffin (Bush's father), and agent David Cerevantes.
So why didn't Lake produce a tape recording of the conversation he claims he had with McNair?
One possibility is that Lake didn't think this conversation was important enough to record. This seems unlikely. As the NCAA described, Lake "went to extraordinary lengths to document his version of the events."
Another possibility is that Lake withheld the tape because it contradicts Lake's version of events. USC and McNair believe it likely that, as McNair and Pete Carroll were assisting Bush in selecting an agent to sign with after his last game, that the call was actually seeking to position Lake's agency to get a sit-down meeting to pitch Bush, McNair, and Carroll. Bush and his advisors interviewed a number of perspective agents one day later.
The testimony of Maiesha Jones, taken as a whole, severely undermines Lake's story. The NCAA got around this by selectively picking and choosing from her testimony.