May 02, 2013

City News Service

 

A judge has given a series of legal victories to Los Angeles Lakers forward Devin Ebanks, tossing defamation claims filed by a woman who alleges he sexually assaulted her and denying her bid to pursue her case without revealing her true name. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Samantha Jessner said Ebanks' lawyers demonstrated that their clients' remarks on Twitter and verbally to others after the alleged incident were protected by his First Amendment rights and therefore  issues of public interest.

``The rape allegations at issue in this case were reported by various media outlets ... which reach a national audience,'' Jessner wrote in her seven- page ruling. ``Based on the fact that (Ebanks) is a professional athlete, he is associated with the Los Angeles Lakers brand ... and the subject was covered in national media outlets, the court finds that the public issue requirement has been satisfied.''

Jessner drew an analogy to news generated when Kobe Bryant was also accused or rape. Those allegations were dropped by prosecutors in September 2004.

``One cannot ignore the impact of a Lakers player accused of rape, no matter whether he is a widely known Lakers player or not, in light of the notoriety received when the most well-known Lakers player, Kobe Bryant, was previously accused of rape,'' Jessner wrote. ``Hence, the Lakers' history vis-a- vis rape allegations is germane to the analysis.''

Jessner also awarded Ebanks $18,700 to compensate him for attorneys' fees spent in fighting the defamation claims. The woman sued Ebanks Dec. 6, alleging assault and battery, sexual assault, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jessner's rulings do not affect the plaintiff's ability to move forward with her other claims against Ebanks. Until now, she has identified herself in her court papers as ``Jane Doe.''

Ebanks has denied the allegations, and the District Attorney's Office found insufficient evidence to prosecute him. According to the lawsuit, the alleged assault took place on Sept. 13, 2011, after the two met at The Colony nightclub in Hollywood. She claims she agreed to go to the Laker player's Marina del Rey apartment on the condition they not have sex. The two began kissing, but after Ebanks began taking off her shorts and underwear, the woman objected and told him to stop, according to her court papers, which allege he then grabbed a condom and became sexually aggressive.

``What's the big deal, it's just sex ... I'm on the Lakers,'' her suit alleges Ebanks told her.

An angry Ebanks later threw her keys, purse and shoes outside and pushed her out of his apartment, according to her court papers. The woman alleged Ebanks subsequently published false information about her on his Twitter account as well as to teammates and an acquaintance suggesting she had made up the rape allegations against him. She maintained in her court papers that Ebanks did not disavow allegedly false statements about her that were published in a celebrity website and therefore adopted them as his own.

Jessner said Ebanks' denial of the rape allegations ``does not somehow become an affirmative statement that plaintiff falsely accused (Ebanks) of rape or (that she) falsely reported the rape to police.''

In the other motion asking that her name by kept confidential, Ebanks' lawyers argued that the woman did not have sufficient legal grounds for such protection and that permitting the aspiring lawyer to do so would compromise their client's ability to defend himself. Jessner, while sympathetic to the plaintiff, said that ``generalized fears of ridicule, embarrassment or scrutiny'' were not enough to allow the woman to proceed with a pseudonym.

``The court recognizes the difficulty that this situation presents for plaintiff,'' Jessner wrote. ``Unfortunately, the once incident described is attenuated in time and there is simply no persuasive evidence that her career in the law will suffer as a result of the disclosure of her name.''

In a sworn declaration submitted in support of her position, the plaintiff said she was ``depressed and vulnerable'' since the alleged assault and that she has a hard time not thinking about it.

``I fear that I will fall apart if the public gets a hold of my true name and I get verbally, physically and emotionally attacked,'' she stated in her declaration, adding that comments on the Internet in reaction to her suit have been ``vitriolic and threatening. Already I am made to be an evil woman.''

The woman maintains that through anonymity, she has been able to ``shield myself somewhat because I am not known as the person that has accused (Ebanks), a Laker NBA player, of rape, whose criminal complaint was not upheld by law enforcement, and now the woman bringing the lawsuit.''

The plaintiff says the ``public interest is served if people like me, facing a relatively more powerful, rich and famous adversary, can bring litigation without fear of public disdain, intrusion of privacy and physical violence, among others.''

But Ebanks' lawyers argued in their court papers that the law does not permit people to proceed with civil cases under assumed names just to avoid ``scrutiny in the media'' which ``could cause embarrassment'' to litigants.

``Plaintiff, a recent law school graduate, is merely speculating that she may have difficulty finding employment in her new legal profession if her identify is revealed,'' Ebanks' lawyers stated in their court papers.

Prosecutors in December 2011 cited a lack of corroborating evidence for their decision not to prosecute Ebanks. The Lakers chose the 23-year-old Ebanks as the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft.

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April 25, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Mike Brown was sitting way up at the top of the Redondo Union High School gymnasium while his older son Elijah Brown was playing in a local high school all-star basketball game, but the former Lakers coach will soon be sitting front row as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers again.

Brown has been keeping a low profile since being canned by the Lakers after just five games into the season, but last Saturday following his son’s game, he managed to speak openly and candid about his one plus season with the Lakers.

Flashing his signature smile, Brown said that he didn’t feel the Lakers organization was in full support of him during his reign.

When told that I didn’t think the Lakers would hire a Black coach and was surprised to see that he accepted the job, Brown responded:

“I kind of thought about that. I felt they were going to pull out all of the stops to doing everything to win a championship, but that was not the case.”

During his first season, the strike-shortened season of 2010-2011, Brown didn’t have the benefit of training camp and with a roster that had Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom on the team.

Then one day in December, he was called into General manager Mitch Kupchak’s office.

“So, I go up there and he tells me that we just traded Lamar Odom! My mouth just dropped. He explained to me that it was for salary cap reasons, but nothing that he did after that justified anything to do with the salary cap,” Brown said.

Brown said that he wasn’t even consulted or asked what he thought before the trade went down.

“I mean, how can I not be told in advance of losing one of my primary pieces, a guy who was ‘Sixth Man of the Year?’”

Then in March, the Lakers traded Fisher to Houston for Jordan Hill.

Brown went on to lead the Lakers to the Pacific Division championship with a 41-25 record before being swept in the Western Conference semifinals by eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

He was under the impression that with a full off-season and a complete training camp, the addition of key acquisitions the Lakers would furnish him with a roster that could compete for an NBA championship.

The Lakers traded away young star center Andrew Bynum and got a bigger star in Dwight Howard, then added Steve Nash to go along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Teams usually don’t put much stock into the preseason, but after the Lakers went winless, the pressure mounted on Brown.

Then the team under performed in the first five games of the season, but rarely if ever does a team terminate its coach so early in the campaign.

White coaches Mike Dunlap lasted the season after only winning 11 games with Charlotte. Dunlap was an assistant at St. Johns University and had no head coaching experience before he was hired.

Lawrence Frank won just 29 games in Detroit, but lasted the season before he was fired.

Brown’s former player LeBron James was miffed at the Lakers firing, but Mike Brown exited with class.

“Yea, it was rather shocking. I mean, I take a team without a training camp into the second round of the playoffs and then I’m gone.”

The Lakers have lost their cornerstone Bryant for the remainder of the playoffs and barely go in as a seventh seed playing sudden death the final weeks of the season.

Bryant logged more minutes than he has since his prime and went down with a torn Achilles tendon ruining any chance of the Lakers competing for the title under Brown’s replacement Mike D’Antoni.

“Could you imagine what they would have said if I was the coach with Kobe playing all of those minutes?”

We will never know, but you can just imagine…

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April 25, 2013

Special to the NNPA from The Key Newsjournal

 

KENTUCKY – Black jockeys Kevin Krigger and Victor Lebron, both of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands will be the first Crucians to ever race in the Kentucky Derby. Krigger will ride Goldencents at the Derby and is ranked second and Lebron will be on Frak Attack and is ranked twenty-eighth.

When thoroughbred horse racing began, Black jockeys reigned supreme. From Oliver Lewis, the first Kentucky Derby winning jockey in 1875 to Isaac Murphy, who won three Kentucky Derby’s (1884, 1890, 1891) Black jockeys  were the sports heroes of the late 1800’s. It was 1902 when a Black jockey last won the Derby. That race was run by Jimmy Winkfield of Kentucky.

Many have predicted that Krigger could be the winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby on May 4.

Earlier this month, Krigger won a total of four races during California’s Santa Anita meet. He became the first Black jockey to win the Santa Anita and did it riding Goldencents which is partially owned by former University of Kentucky Coach, now University of Louisville Basketball Men’s Basketball Coach Rick Pitino.

Kevin Krigger will be a guest on Key Conversations Radio Sunday, April 21st. Key Conversations Radio airs at 10 a.m. on WUKY-HD2. Listen online at www.wuky.org.

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April 25, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

It is no longer a question of  ‘if’ but rather ‘when’ will one of America’s most treasured racetracks close its gates for good.

Racetrack employees have known since Bay Meadows Land Company purchased Hollywood Park from Church Hills Downs for $260 million in 2005 that their days were numbered.

Bay Meadows Land Company had previously purchased Northern California racetrack Bay Meadows and did to it what it plans on doing to the Inglewood racetrack.

At the time of the purchase, the company had only promised racing for three more years, which meant it should have already been history by now.

However, the recession of 2008 doomed any such land development plans as the housing market crashed, thus subsequently restricting Hollywood Park to schedule meet by meet.

The aggressive and unrealistic plan by Bay Meadows proposed to “transform” the 238-acre site at the corner of Century Blvd. and Prairie Ave. into a “new modern community.”

It would remove racing that has existed since 1938 and the casino that was built in 1994 and replace it with parks, a hotel, theatre complex and about 3,000 new town homes or condos.

Hailed as Hollywood Park Tomorrow, the project pledged to produce 19,000 jobs for Inglewood residents, make a $2 billion investment and a projected $40 million in tax increment.

In fact some of the land has already been sold to a group of developers called Inglewood Renaissance, the city of Inglewood has voted to approve the project and an environmental impact study has been conducted.

Advocates say the new project is exactly what residents want and need, but the growing lists of critics are skeptical. They say that Inglewood already has plenty of parks, nearby town homes in Carlton Square is losing tenants and not gaining them and a new bustling Century Blvd., which has a shopping complex with major retail outlets, fast food chains and restaurants.

In the meantime, the racetrack has been off the respirator and breathing on its own, although attendance remains under 10,000, the on track handle has increased and recently Los Angeles subsidiary Betfair, which is owned by TVG, signed a five –year deal for naming rights.

If Hollywood Park could talk to humans it would tell us about the glory years when Citation became the first millionaire and when jockeys like Laffit Pincay Jr. and the late Bill Shoemaker rode past the finish line to a roar of applause.

The homegrown freakish mare Zenyatta which never lost a race at the track and finished with career earnings of more than $5 million while becoming the first female horse to beat males in the Breeders Cup Classic.

Zenyatta was so popular that she created a new buzz during her improbable undefeated streak before she finally lost by a nose in her final Breeders Cup Race against males.

More than any other horse that ran at Hollywood Park, Zenyatta inspired a legion of new fans women and children to come to the racetrack and watch her spot the field some 18 to 20 lengths before she came roaring down the stretch, gobbling up her competition for the victory.

There are several similar stories, but one of my all time favorites’ horses was JO Tobin and I loved late track announcer Harry Henson, the steel courage of the rags to riches story of Lava Man.

Only World War II in 1942 managed to keep horseracing from being staged during a scheduled meet at Hollywood Park, but the Bay Meadows Land Company is doing its best to shut it down once and for all, it just won’t be April 25-July 14.

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April 18, 2013

By NOAH TRISTER (AP Sports Writer)

 

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Tim Hardaway Jr. is moving on to the next challenge, well aware that he'll still need to prove himself if he's going to follow his father's footsteps in the NBA.

''Everybody's going in there with the same mindset,'' Hardaway said. ''There's no leeway.''

Hardaway announced Wednesday that he'll forgo his senior season at Michigan and enter the NBA draft. He's the second Wolverine to declare early for this year's draft - national player of the year Trey Burke announced his departure Sunday.

Burke could be one of the top players taken, but Hardaway's status is less clear. The 6-foot-6 guard started all 107 games he played during his three-year career with the Wolverines, but he's projected as a second-round pick by DraftExpress.

Players can seek input from an NBA draft advisory committee before leaving school, but Hardaway said the final choice was one he had to make himself.

''This was my decision. It wasn't about the advisory committee, it was about my decision and what I wanted to do,'' Hardaway said. ''I obviously had input from my coaches and my father, but it was my decision and they were behind me 100 percent.''

Hardaway's father played in the NBA from 1989-2003. The younger Hardaway, who is 6 inches taller, averaged 14.5 points in his final season at Michigan, helping the Wolverines reach the Final Four for the first time since 1993. Michigan lost to Louisville in the championship game.

''Really happy for Tim today, because Tim has really wrestled with this decision for a while,'' coach John Beilein said. ''He's gained a lot of information - as you well know, pretty well connected to the NBA, understands the competitive level of the NBA, how hard you have to work.''

There's been no announcement yet on the futures of Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, two talented freshmen who could also leave Michigan for the draft.

Hardaway made an immediate impact as a freshman at Michigan, and although his 3-point shooting dipped to 28.3 percent as a sophomore, it improved to a career-best 37.4 percent this season.

As a junior, Hardaway was something of an elder statesman on a team that relied heavily on him, sophomore Burke and several freshmen.

Now, Hardaway is eager to see where he stands at the professional level.

''You dream about this moment since you were a kid,'' Hardaway said. ''My dad and my coaching staff put me in the right position, and all this comes from my mom. My mom has done a great job of just keeping me level-headed, raising me the right way and making sure that I respect others.''

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