Former NBA star Dwight Howard has argued that allegations of sexual assault and battery against him are baseless and that a Georgia court should immediately rule in his favor and dismiss the charges without a trial.
A Gwinnett County court in Georgia has yet to make a decision regarding the petition, but, in a Thursday filing that was obtained by ESPN, Howard's attorneys again claim that Howard and a man named Stephen Harper engaged in a consensual encounter involving a third person at Howard's Georgia residence in July 2021.
Harper filed a lawsuit in July with his lawyers accusing Howard of sexually assaulting him during the encounter, along with "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and false imprisonment.
In October, Howard denied the allegations and asked the court to dismiss the case.
On Thursday, Howard's attorneys went further, alleging that key text messages were deleted and not part of the initial complaint filed by Harper's attorneys.
Howard's attorneys also alleged that a pull of the iMessage conversation between Harper and Howard revealed that some messages were doctored.
Thursday's filing includes screenshots of alleged text messages between Howard and Harper that were not in the initial complaint.
"In short, the totality of the text messages between Mr. Howard and Mr. Harper make it abundantly clear that Mr. Harper's claims are frivolous, that he was a willing participant in the events of July 19, 2021 and the early morning hours of July 20, 2021, and that the touching of his person had been invited by him," Howard's attorneys write in Thursday's filing.
"More importantly, the explicit messages not only show consent but also that Mr. Harper was initiating some of the sexual contact. Mr. Harper not only invited the initial experience, but tried to initiate a second encounter because the first was so enjoyable. As it is undisputed that Mr. Harper consented to the touching between him and Mr. Howard, Mr. Harper's claims necessarily fail, and Mr. Howard is entitled to summary judgment as the clear consent negates the essential element of intent and the claims of Assault, Battery, False Imprisonment, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress fall like a house of cards."
Harper's lawyers didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Harper's initial complaint, his lawyers said Harper and Howard first began corresponding over direct messages on Instagram in May 2021, with Harper initiating the exchange. That complaint included screenshots of alleged Instagram exchanges between Harper and Howard from 2021, along with an Uber receipt of Harper's trip to Howard's residence on the night of the encounter.
Harper went to police a year later, according to a July 2022 incident report from the Gwinnett County Police Department, which was obtained by ESPN. No charges were filed.
"This is nothing more than a classic case of unrequited love," Howard's lawyers wrote in Thursday's filing. "After one consensual evening together, Mr. Howard was no longer interested in keeping Mr. Harper's company."
They added, "Mr. Harper told Mr. Howard in text that he would 'get my parade' based on taking the private relationship public and would start by telling Mr. Howard's mom and sisters about Mr. Howard's private life."
Howard's lawyers allege that Howard received multiple demands for payment, each from different lawyers and law firms over a year.
"When these threats and several demands for money went unfulfilled," Howard's lawyers wrote, "Mr. Harper filed the instant lawsuit as revenge and in an attempt to tarnish Mr. Howard's reputation, 'get [his] attention,' and fulfill the threat of telling the whole world about the private, consensual night."
Howard, 37, last played in the NBA in 2021-22 with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is an eight-time All-Star and a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
ESPN BET is owned and operated by PENN Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries ('PENN'). ESPN BET is available in states where PENN is licensed to offer sports wagering. Must be 21+ to wager. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-GAMBLER.
Copyright: © 2023 ESPN Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.