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Mason Released On $20,000 Bond

Anthony Mason of the Charlotte Hornets was charged with statutory rape and sexual abuse Sunday following accusations he and a cousin had sex with 14- and 15-year-old sisters.

Mason and his cousin, William Duggins of Queens, N.Y., were freed on bail after Mason posted $20,000 - a figure set by Judge Steven Paynter based on the 31-year-old forward's disorderly conduct conviction last fall - and Duggins put up $3,500.

Mason's lawyer, Frank Rothman, said the former New York Knick was the victim of a setup. He also said Mason would appear at his next court date, set for March 9.

"If you have a satellite dish you can see him three nights a week on television. Where is he going to go?" asked Rothman.

Duggins was arrested once on a minor charge, and is an unemployed construction worker, according to his lawyer, Edward M. Kratt. Paynter ordered the cousins not to contact one another.

Both lawyers said their clients offered to give blood samples for DNA tests to prove their innocence after Assistant District Attorney Scott Kessler said detectives were holding bedding from the alleged attack. The offer was not accepted.

The prosecutor also said that both men knew the girls' ages when they first met on Friday night.

Rothman said Sunday he has "a neutral witness to shatter allegations" that the girls were attacked by his client, and that Mason "did not have sex with these girls, oral or otherwise."

The Hornets forward "totally, categorically, completely denies he did anything wrong," Mason's agent, Don Cronson, told reporters outside the courthouse prior to the arraignment. He said Mason had asked him about the NBA All-Star game and was "getting ready to go home."

Cronson also said Mason was receiving many calls of support, including some from Charlotte.

Before the arraignment, Deputy Chief Jane Perlov, chief of Queens detectives, told a news conference the two men and the girls met during a benefit basketball game at York College in Queens on Friday night, then drove to Duggins' home in Laurelton, Queens.

"They went willingly and were not held against their will," Perlov said of the two teen-agers.

She said the alleged rapes occurred at the house, and the sexual abuse charge stemmed from events - which she did not specify further - that took place on the way there.

In addition to the charges of statutory rape and sexual abuse, both men were accused of endangering the welfare of a child, she said.

Perlov said the girls had gone afterward to the home of a relative, where they revealed details of the alleged attack, and police were called.

The teen-agers were given physical exams at Franklin General Hospital and released, Perlov said.

The two men surrendered Saturday following a charity basketball game and were arrested after five hours of questioning by detectives.

Mason, who played for the Knicks before being traded to Charlotte in 1996, has a histor of scrapes with the law.

On Saturday night, outside the precinct, Rothman was asked whether the girls were after money from Mason.

"It wouldn't be the first time. I believe that's the case," he said. "He hasn't had sex with anyone, and he'll do whatever it takes to prove it."

Rothman also said there were witnesses, "some of them that Anthony knows and some who are independent witnesses."

Cronson said the unwelcome attention is proving "very difficult" for Mason.

"It's New York, it's home, it's All-Star weekend," the agent said. "It's very tough."

Mason is under contract to the Hornets for the next three seasons, at a total remaining salary of $14.57 million. Most NBA contracts have a standard morals clause, so the Hornets could attempt to void that contract if he is convicted of a felony.

In late 1995 and early 1996, Mason was involved in two spats at Manhattan nightclubs. In one, he was accused of hitting a woman; in the other, he said he was trying to break up a fight.

Later in 1996, Mason was charged with felony assault during a scuffle with police over a Times Square parking ticket and faced up to seven years in prison.

That charge was reduced to disorderly conduct last November, with Mason apologizing to police, paying a $250 fine and performing 120 hours of community service.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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