Eight-time NBA All-Star and former NBA champion Dwight Howard has denied sexual assault and battery allegations leveled against him last year, claiming that the encounter was “consensual,” according to court documents obtained by ESPN.
The allegations leveled against Howard by a man named Stephen Harper stem from a July 2021 incident that allegedly took place at the Georgia home of the former Los Angeles Lakers star.
According to the report, Harper accused Howard of sexual assault, false imprisonment and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Radar Online was the first to report on the allegations leveled against Howard.
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An attorney representing Howard told ESPN that the alleged incident was “consensual” and only made public after a demand for payment.
”What was a private consensual encounter was made public for profit and Mr. Howard looks forward to bringing the truth to light in a court of law,” Justin Bailey told ESPN. “The allegations against Mr. Howard are contested. Mr. Howard intends to present the truth.”
Bailey said that Howard had been contacted after blocking Harper on social media.
“The truth is Mr. Howard blocked Mr. Harper on social media and then was confronted with two options — pay to protect his reputation or have a fabricated story made public. Despite being an easy target due to the subject matter and his status as a celebrity, Mr. Howard chose to trust in the justice system and will rely on all future court filings to speak for themselves,” Bailey told the outlet.
Howard denied the allegations, according to the court documents, but Harper’s attorney told Fox News Digital that they “anticipated” that the former NBA star would do so, adding that Harper did not offer consent.
“We had some independent investigation to conduct and Mr. Harper had some private factors to consider before we all felt ready to proceed with the lawsuit,” Olga Izmaylova said.
“It has come to my attention that Mr. Howard is now attempting to label my client’s filing of this lawsuit as an act of extortion, which is absolutely false. Mr. Harper is exercising his legal rights, in accordance with Georgia law, and seeking redress for the unlawful acts he endured.”
Izmaylova also noted that a motion to dismiss the case has not yet been filed.
“I can also tell you that Mr. Howard has not yet filed a Motion to Dismiss, which is the appropriate motion that must be filed in order for the court to consider the issue of dismissal. Given that no Motion to Dismiss has been filed, the issue of dismissal is not before the court at this time,” she said.
ESPN reported that Harper contacted the police in July 2022, a year after the alleged encounter. According to the initial complaint, Harper’s attorneys said he and Howard had begun speaking over social media around two months before the incident.
Howard spent 18 years in the NBA, winning an NBA championship with the Lakers in 2020.
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