Financial cloud over former Terp's death

Financial cloud over former Terp's death
September 28, 2012, 8:08 pm
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In four years on the basketball team at the University of Maryland, Earl Badu played for a squad that went to two Final Fours and won a national championship. Though he saw little action on the court, Badu was certainly a fan favorite.

He was small by basketball standards, usually had a big smile on his face, and generally when he entered the game those great Terrapin teams had sizable leads. Who wouldnt root for a guy like that?

When many Maryland fans heard the news of Badus Sept. 27 death, the general response was sadness. Few could understand what happened to such a nice young man, just 33 years old.

Tahj Holden, a former teammate of Badus, took to Twitter to express his grief when he heard the news of Badus death.

R.I.P. Earl Badu. One of the best teammates, and one of the nicest people I have ever met, Holden wrote. Didnt have one bad teammate during my four years, but Earl was one of the best.

What few fans knew, and what is still being discovered, is that Badus life had taken twists and turns since graduating from Maryland. Badu earned some well-earned publicity when he spoke of plans to enter law school following his time at Maryland, including a Baltimore Sun feature story.

But somewhere between the basketball glories, law school plans and his untimely death in 2012, Badu met Dr. Alan Cornfield. Cornfield works as a chiropractor at the Silver Spring, Md., Smart Medical Rehab and Therapy.

At the time of his death, Badu owed Cornfield 300,000, according to Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court documents.

The documents show that Cornfield filed a civil complaint against Badu on Dec. 10, 2010 with a litany of charges: breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation of facts, unjust enrichment and restitution based upon unjust enrichment.

Lewis Silber served as attorney for Cornfield on this case, and he said that Cornfield and Badu were close. Silber explained that Badu told Cornfield he could make a good return on an investment.

Apparently Mr. Badu and Dr. Cornfield knew each other for a number of years, Silber said. There was something going on where Badu told Cornfield he could make him a lot of money.

Silber went on to explain that Badu owed a lot of other people money as well, but the attorney said he was not at liberty to discuss those other people at this time.

Throughout the almost 18 month trial, Badu did not retain a lawyer. Silber added that Badu listed himself as self-employed when asked in court.

Silber last saw Badu on Friday, Sept. 21, in a court room. As part of a payment plan to repay the 300,000, Badu wrote a 20,000 check. That check bounced.

Badu was sentenced for writing that bad check last Friday, according to the Montgomery County Circuit Court Criminal Department. The former Maryland walk-on, the last man to score a basket at Cole Field House, was due to serve a five-year suspended sentence and three years probation for the bad check charge.

Im not sure where the money went, Silber said. We ended up going to court, and he agreed to pay the money back. In the process of doing so he wrote a check that was not good.

Silber said that Badu asked for more time to make things work.

It seemed like he was trying to figure things out, Silber said. He seemed that he believed it would be taken care of. As long as we kept pushing it off, another week, another week, it would work out.

Despite Badus requests for more time, Cornfield received no money.

We needed to see something. Nothing was going through, Silber said. Dr. Cornfield wanted his money back and this was the way legally we had to do it.

What happens with Badus debt remains to be seen, Silber said, but the sadness of the situation did not escape the attorney.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland is in the process of investigating Badus death, though there is no set timetable for the results.

I feel very bad for Mr. Badu, Silber said. I know his family.

Silber explained that Cornfield and Badu became friends through the chiropractors connections at the University of Maryland.

I can tell you they were friends, Silber said of Badu and Cornfield. There was a very big amount of trust that was given to Earl because of the friendship that had developed over the years. Hed known this guy for years, he treated him like part of his family.

From the date of Cornfields civil court filing in December 2010, the case meandered through a series of procedural moves before reaching the 300,000 settlement in April.

Asked why a chiropractor would invest 300,000 with a self-employed, former basketball player, Silber could not answer. Where that money went is a question that may permanently go unanswered.

Calls to Cornfields office were not immediately returned.

Looking back at the team that brought the University of Maryland its first and only national title a decade ago, it is hard not to think about where some of the players ended up.

The two stars of the team, Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter, no longer play professionally.

Baxters professional career derailed after a series of gun-related criminal charges. Dixon had a longer NBA career, but a positive steroid test while playing in Europe soiled his record. Dixon told the Baltimore Sun in March that he intends to make it back to the NBA, while two other starters from the title team, Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox, still play in the NBA.

A lot can happen in 10 years. For many, that 2002 Maryland team will always elicit smiles. But no matter the cause, Badu has played his final game.