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Jury Leaning Against Isiah Thomas

A jury indicated Monday that it believes New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas and Madison Square Garden committed sexual harassment against a former team executive.

There was no official verdict, but the wording of a note to the judge by jurors makes it clear they have reached decisions on the key points of the $10 million lawsuit that has turned into a public relations disaster for the franchise.

Jurors reached a decision on eight of nine questions on the jury form. They were deadlocked on the one question, which asks whether Thomas should pay punitive damages. That question only becomes relevant if the jury of four women and three men first determines Thomas and Madison Square Garden committed harassment against Anucha Browne Sanders.

The judge sent the jury home for the day, asking the panel to deliberate Tuesday on the deadlocked question.

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Lawyers for both sides declined to comment on the development, which came on the second full day of deliberations.

Browne Sanders, fired from her $260,000 a year job in 2006, has accused Thomas and Madison Square Garden of sexual harassment and said MSG fired her for complaining about the treatment.

Her case presented the Garden as "Animal House" in sneakers, a place where nepotism, sexism, crude remarks and crass language were part of the culture.

Browne Sanders, a married mother of three, spent four days on the witness stand laying out her case against the Garden and Thomas, who is married with two children.

A former Northwestern college basketball star, Browne Sanders characterized Thomas as a foul-mouthed lout who initially berated her as a "bitch" and a "ho" before his anger gave way to ardor, with Thomas making unwanted advances and encouraging her to visit him "off site."

Thomas, hired in December 2003, followed her to the stand and denied the allegations. Attorneys for Thomas and the Garden portrayed Browne Sanders as incompetent and unable to adapt once Thomas arrived as the Knicks' president.

"That's not about sexual harassment," MSG attorney Ronald Green said in his closing argument. "That's about team politics."

Thomas acknowledged trying to kiss Browne Sanders in December 2005, asking her "No love today?" when she recoiled. MSG president Steve Mills said he spoke with Thomas about the single incident, and the former point guard said it wouldn't happen again.

In her closing argument, Browne Sanders' attorney Anne Vladeck made note of Thomas' charismatic style and incandescent grin.

"There is no question Mr. Thomas can be charming and flash an engaging smile," she told the jury. "That does not give him the right to treat Browne Sanders like she is his woman."

Browne Sanders filed her lawsuit after she was fired in January 2006. MSG chairman Jim Dolan, who testified before Thomas, said he dismissed the team's vice president for marketing and business operations after learning she was pressuring Garden subordinates to bolster her complaint.

The case, from its inception, proved a public relations nightmare for the Knicks and the Garden, with coverage of the three-week trial focusing on its tawdriest aspects: star guard Stephon Marbury having sex with an intern outside a strip club, raunchy come-ons from a Marbury cousin to his Garden co-workers, Thomas' videotaped remarks about the racial dynamics of calling a woman "a bitch."

"The World's Most Heinous Arena," read one New York Post headline about the case.

The trial did steer attention from the Knicks' on-court woes as the team geared up for its second season with Thomas as head coach. The Knicks finished 33-49 last year and have yet to win a playoff game during the Thomas regime.

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