Former NBA star Dwight Howard has denied allegations of sexual assault, battery and false imprisonment that were filed against him in July and asked a court to dismiss a civil lawsuit he is facing in Georgia.
Howard said that he engaged in “consensual sexual activity” with a man during a July 2021 encounter at Howard’s residence in the Atlanta suburb of Suwanee, according to court documents obtained by the Guardian. The former No 1 overall draft pick denied that he caused any injury to Harper, in addition to allegations of “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and false imprisonment, according to the filing.
The 37-year-old Howard, who played most recently for Taiwan’s Taoyuan Leopards, was responding to a July complaint in which he was alleged to have started a correspondence with the plaintiff over Instagram direct messages. The exchange led to an in-person meeting at Howard’s house where the alleged sexual assault occurred.
The attorney for the plaintiff, Olga Izmaylova, told ESPN that her client did not consent to the sexual encounter, saying: “We fully anticipated Mr Howard to raise the issue of consent in [Monday’s filing].”
Howard’s legal counsel have accused the plaintiff of attempting to extort the basketball star in exchange for his silence.
“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 ESPN. “The allegations against Mr Howard are contested. Mr Howard intends to present the truth. The truth is Mr Howard blocked [the plaintiff] 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 original complaint includes screenshots of alleged Instagram exchanges between the plaintiff and Howard from 2021. The plaintiff 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 report was made following Mr Harper being blocked on social media and after the first demand for payment was rejected,” Bailey said.
Howard played nearly two decades in the NBA and was an eight-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA Team honoree, five-time All-Defensive Team member and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He also won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2008 Olympics.