Washington Wizards player Juwan Howard is seeking $20 million from the woman who accused him of sexual assault, saying in a lawsuit that her allegations against him "have done irreparable harm to my reputation and image."
Howard's lawyer filed the civil suit Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Maryland. The suit seeks compensation for emotional distress caused by the charges made by a Connecticut woman.
In a complaint that also named Howard's then-teammate Chris Webber, the woman contended she was sexually assaulted during a party April 6 at Howard's suburban Maryland home. The grand jury in Montgomery County did not hand down an indictment.
Now, Howard says he wants his name cleared.
"This woman's allegations have done irreparable harm to my reputation and image," Howard said in a statement read by his lawyer, Mitchell Rubinstein, on WRC-TV. "It was important to me to take legal action in order to restore my good reputation and deter anyone from making such false claims against me in the future,"
Howard's lawsuit claims the player "was subject to constant pressures and doubts concerning his character and reputation" because of the charges made against him.
Ned Collier, the lawyer for the Trumbull, Conn., woman who made the accusations, said his client would respond to Howard's suit with one of her own, this time in civil court.
"My client told the truth in front of the grand jury, she told the truth to me and she'll tell the truth in court again, and we'll see what a jury thinks," Collier told WRC-TV.
A spokeswoman for the Wizards referred questions to Howard's agent, who couldn't be reached for comment.
Webber and Howard denied any wrongdoing in the sexual assault case. The grand jury heard testimony from the accuser as well as from many of the 40 or so people who attended the party. Howard and Webber did not testify and their lawyers did not let police interview them.
The players' lawyers have offered different explanations of what happened at the party.
Billy Martin, Howard's lawyer, has said the woman initiated a consensal sex act but did not say with whom.
Webber's lawyer, Marcell Solomon, has said his client already left Howard's house when the alleged incident occurred.
Following the grand jury meeting, Collier said his client testified that she went to a room with Webber and was struck, cutting her lip, then restrained by one of four people present in the room before being sexually assaulted.
The latest round of litigation tops off a controversy-ridden season for Howard and Webber. Last month, the Wizards traded Webber to the Sacramento Kings. He still faces charges of marijuana possession, second-degree assault, resisting arrest and several traffic-related offenses stemming from an arrest after being stopped for speeding on the way to a Wizards practice in January.
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