Daily Kent Stater: “Cope Court donor withdraws $1 million gift”

The following is an article I wrote for the Daily Kent Stater, published on January 6. I had originally written about how Kent State was to name its basketball court “Cope Court” on January 14 after a $1 million donation from alum Jason Cope, and how Cope was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding 190 investors out of $8.7 million, but the donation was withdrawn just hours before publication.

I read through SEC litigation, received court documents from from a US district court, read newspaper articles published around that time, and interviewed athletic director Joel Nielsen on January 4 about accepting the donation and naming the court “Cope Court.” I tried for three days to contact Cope; any possible numbers I found online did not work (he is unlisted), tried to contact him through one of the golf courses he owns, asked the athletic department for his number (they said no, for privacy reason), drove to his house in Gates Mills (listed by the Cuyahoga County auditor, he was not there), and asked the athletic department communications person to forward my phone number and email to Cope and let him know I was trying to give him an opportunity to respond to what I was writing about (he said he forwarded it to the people that were in contact with him). After calling numbers, leaving messages through his business and the athletic department, and driving to house, I was still unable to reach him.

However, my story took a turn when I received an email from the athletic department right before my article was to be posted on Kentwired saying that the $1 million had been withdrawn by Mr. Cope. This was 24 hours after the athletic department said they would forward my message to Cope (that I was trying to reach him for comment about the SEC investigation and the Cope Court donation), and two days after my interview with the athletic director about accepting the donation and renaming the court. It was also eight days before the planned ceremony that would reveal the new Cope Court before a men’s basketball game.

I was left to integrate the new developments into the story I had been working on for a week. My story on Kentwired.com:

A $1 million gift from Kent State alum Jason M. Cope and his wife Stacie was unexpectedly withdrawn Friday. Kent State planned to name its basketball court “Cope Court” in a ceremony January 14 before the men’s game.

The announcement of the withdrawal came after the Daily Kent Stater made inquiries into the past of Jason M. Cope, a 1995 Kent State finance graduate. Cope was the branch manager of a financial firm that defrauded 190 investors of $8.7 million in late 1999 and early 2000. Cope was one of four defendants required to pay a total of more than $19 million in penalties, according to litigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission and court documents. Continue reading on Kentwired.com...

 

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