Former NBA star Dwight Howard has filed court documents seeking to dismiss a civil lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting a man. Per ESPN, the complaint in question was filed earlier this year, but the NBA champion on Monday denied the sexual assault and battery allegations brought against him.
Howard in the documents said that he and a man identified as Stephen Harper engaged in “consensual sexual activity” at Howard’s home in Georgia in July 2021. The 37-year-old NBA champion, however, said he did not injure Harper during their encounter, the filing states.
Harper’s lawyers in the July 2023 lawsuit stated that their client and Howard initially started communicating via direct Instagram messages in May 2021, adding that it was Harper who first reached out to Howard. Harper claimed he was sexually assaulted by Howard when they later met at the former Los Angeles Lakers star’s residence in July 2021.
“We fully anticipated Mr. Howard to raise the issue of consent in his Answer,” Olga Izmaylova, who is Harper’s attorney, told ESPN. The attorney also claimed what the two did was not consensual.
Other accusations brought against Howard in the civil lawsuit included “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and false imprisonment. But Howard said that was not the case.
“What was a private consensual encounter was made public for profit and Mr. Howard looks forward to bringing the truth to light in a court of law,” one of Howard’s attorneys, Justin Bailey, told the news outlet.
“The allegations against Mr. Howard are contested. Mr. Howard intends to present the truth. The truth is Mr. Howard blocked Mr. Harper on social media and then was confronted with two options — pay to protect his reputation or have a fabricated story made public. Despite being an easy target due to the subject matter and his status as a celebrity, Mr. Howard chose to trust in the justice system and will rely on all future court filings to speak for themselves.”
The complaint filed by Harper has screenshots of the supposed correspondence Howard and Harper had from 2021. It also includes a receipt of the Uber ride Harper took to Howard’s home the night the alleged incident occurred.
A July 2022 incident report obtained by ESPN indicated that Harper filed a report with the Gwinnett County Police Department after a year – though charges weren’t filed. “This report was made following Mr. Harper being blocked on social media and after the first demand for payment was rejected,” said Bailey.
The Georgia statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit of this nature is two years from the time the incident occurred. “We had some independent investigation to conduct and Mr. Harper had some private factors to consider,” Izmaylova said, “before we all felt ready to proceed with the lawsuit.”