Battery Trial to Begin for Pro Basketball Player


A former guard for the Houston Rockets basketball team, the first professional athlete ever to be arrested for striking an official, is scheduled to face battery charges today in Ventura County Municipal Court.

Allan Leavell, 32, now a guard for the Tulsa Fast Breakers, faces a charge of battery for knocking referee Peter Quinn to the floor with a stiff-handed blow during a minor league game at Ventura Community College on March 30.

Leavell was fined $5,000 and suspended from play in the Continental Basketball Assn. for two years over the incident. But he could face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine for the misdemeanor charge, Deputy Dist. Atty. Brian Rafelson said.

Fistfights and shoving matches interrupt professional sports every season. But no player in professional basketball, baseball, football or hockey has ever faced criminal charges for assaulting an official, authorities say.

No one has ever been arrested for hitting or pushing an official, according to authorities in the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Assn., Major League Baseball, National Assn. of Professional Baseball Leagues, International Hockey League, and in Leavell's league, the Continental Basketball Assn.

Leavell played for 10 seasons with the Houston Rockets but was released during the 1988-89 season when his work began to falter, NBA spokesman Terry Lyons said.

Leavell's best year was 1982-83, when he averaged 14.8 points a game. But his average fell to 3.3 points a game in 1988-89, Lyons said.

"He was released because Houston felt he wasn't as good as any of the other players they had," NBA spokesman Peter Steber said.

After signing 10-day contracts with the Philadelphia 76ers, Leavell was picked up by the CBA's Tulsa Fast Breakers.

Then came March 30, when Leavell's team played the Santa Barbara Islanders in the gymnasium at Ventura Community College.

It was 9:45 p.m., the last seconds of the game. The Fast Breakers were losing, on their way to a final score of 121-116.

According to the police report, the ball went out of bounds in front of the Tulsa bench and referee Quinn, who is also an NBA referee, called the ball out on Tulsa. Tulsa player Otis Birdsong began arguing with Quinn, who called a technical foul on Birdsong.

"Leavell, who was in the game, came up to Quinn and began arguing with him and telling him that he would never work in the NBA again," according to the Ventura Community College police report.

"Leavell then struck Quinn on the neck with his left hand. Leavell's hand was open, and he used the area between his thumb and index finger to strike Quinn. Quinn went down immediately and stayed on the floor until he was able to stand with the help of others. After being struck, Quinn became disoriented for a few minutes."

Leavell apologized to Quinn while he was down, saying, "I'm sorry," according to the report.

Quinn said Thursday that he intends to testify against Leavell if the case goes to trial but declined to comment further.

"No one has contacted me about going to the trial at all, but if that's what it takes, I'll go," Quinn said from his home in Trenton, N.J.

Leavell could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Most professional sports leagues have had physical altercations between players and officials. None of the leagues contacted by The Times could recall a criminal case arising from such incidents.

NHL spokesman Glenn Pearson recalled Dino Ciccarelli being arrested for "whacking a defenseman with a stick several times in 1987." He added, "I believe in the '50s, Maurice Richard was suspended" for hitting a referee while playing with the Montreal Canadiens.

Baseball's National League spokeswoman, Katy Feeney, said the most recent player-umpire incident occurred several years ago, when then-Cincinnati Reds Manager Pete Rose was suspended for 30 days for shoving an umpire.

In professional basketball, the most serious incident of violence came in 1977 when Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers punched Rudy Tomjanovich of the Houston Rockets, breaking his jaw and nose and ending Tomjanovich's career.

Tomjanovich was later awarded $3.3 million in damages by a federal court jury. Washington was traded by the Lakers to the Boston Celtics after being fined $10,000 and suspended for 60 days.

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