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Stroger fires ex-hoops player who lied to get patronage job
FELON FIRED | Ex-hoops player lied about past to get patronage job

Friday, April 10, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Mark J. Konkol

Former University of Georgia basketball player Tony Cole -- a convicted felon who also was once charged in a rape case -- scored a patronage job in October with Cook County President Todd Stroger's administration.

But on Thursday, Stroger fired Cole from an assistant human resources post after being informed by the Chicago Sun-Times of Cole's conviction for writing bad checks in Georgia.

"The president knew about charges Cole had been acquitted on, but was unaware of his felony conviction," said Stroger spokesman Eugene Mullins. "He gave the order to fire Cole because that information was not included on his application. . . . [Stroger] helped someone who was turning his life around. If he would have just told the truth, he would have been OK."

Stroger personally hired Cole after receiving a recommendation letter from famed Louisiana State University basketball coach Dale Brown asking him to give the troubled player a chance.

Cole was hired as a $58,000-a-year administrative assistant in the budget department. Recently, he was promoted to a $61,000-a-year human resources assistant post in the highway department. Some employees were concerned that Cole had access to their personal information, county sources said.

Cole couldn't be reached for comment.

His troubles began when he was charged with aggravated assault with intent to rape in 2002 and kicked off the Georgia team. The criminal charge was dropped but he wasn't allowed back on the team.

Then Cole made national news by blowing the whistle on his coach, Jim Harrick, for a slew of NCAA violations. He claimed Harrick gave him financial gifts and had his son, Jim Harrick Jr., give Cole and other players an "A" in a physical education class he didn't have to attend. Harrick Jr. was fired and his father resigned from the school and retired from coaching.

The rape case wasn't the last of Cole's off-the-court troubles.

The alleged rape victim claimed in a federal civil lawsuit that she had consensual sex with Cole in 2002, but was sexually assaulted and raped by two other students at Cole's urging, according to court documents. The civil case was settled in 2007.

In 2003, Cole was charged with threatening an ex-girlfriend with an Uzi if she did not let him in her house. Those charges were dropped when the alleged victim didn't appear in court. That same year, Cole also was convicted for writing bad checks.

While playing basketball for Robert Morris College in Chicago in 2006, Cole told the Sun-Times he was trying to get his life back on track after "six or seven" times in jail for "misdemeanors and a couple felonies."

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