OMAHA, Neb. — Seven people who threatened basketball referee John Higgins after an NCAA tournament game in March have been identified. Information on them will be referred to authorities in their jurisdictions and to the FBI’s Omaha field office, a Nebraska prosecutor said Friday.
Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said the identities were ascertained after a lengthy investigation following Kentucky’s 75-73 loss to North Carolina in the South Region final in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 26. Polikov did not release their names.
Kentucky coach John Calipari criticized the officiating during his postgame news conference. Higgins, of Omaha, saw his La Vista-based roofing company inundated with harassing emails, phone calls and voicemails, including death threats against Higgins and his family.
“Based on the investigation’s findings, our office has determined that no local charges will be filed and that pursuit of any criminal charges would be best served by deferring to authorities in the appropriate jurisdictions,” Polikov said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The length of the investigation was drawn out due in part to the large volume of potential evidence requiring analysis, and the multi-jurisdictional issues arising from the multiple states in which the communications originated.”
Polikov said at least two media outlets were identified as promoting and posting a video montage that exposed Higgins’ contact information.
“This information has been referred to the Federal Communications Commission for further investigation of the potential violations related to applicable federal communications regulations,” Polikov said.
Polikov did not say where the seven individuals reside or where the two media outlets are based.
About 3,000 phone calls came into Higgins’ office in the two days after the game. Sheriff’s investigator Matt Barrall estimated 75 percent were from Kentucky area codes.
Higgins’ business also received a flood of bogus negative online reviews, causing his Google rating to plummet. Higgins’ website got more than 28,000 hits in the days after the game, and he was forced to take his business Facebook page down.
The Sarpy County sheriff’s department provided extra patrols around Higgins’ office in the days following the game, and Omaha police did the same near Higgins’ residence.
Higgins, reached Friday, said he appreciated the work local law enforcement did on the case but had no further comment.