No Trail Blazers Will Be Charged : Jurisprudence: Team suspends and fines two players and fines two others. Utah authorities have insufficient proof in teen sex case.
The Portland Trail Blazers fined and suspended two players and also fined two others Thursday for their involvement in a teen-age sex scandal in Salt Lake City.
Hours earlier, Utah authorities had announced that they would not press criminal charges in the case.
Rookies Dave Johnson and Tracy Murray were fined and suspended without pay for three games. Starter Jerome Kersey and rookie Reggie Smith were fined.
Murray left UCLA after his junior season last year to make himself eligible for the NBA draft.
Geoff Petrie, the Trail Blazers’ senior vice president for operations, would not disclose the size of the fines, but said they were substantial.
“We do not take breaches of our policies or team rules lightly and feel deep regret that some of our players have shown poor judgment, and for that we apologize,” Petrie said at a news conference at which the club identified the players for the first time.
Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom said that his office would not press felony charges against any player for having sex the night of Jan. 23 with two 16-year-old girls because there was no proof that the girls had been coerced or enticed to participate. According to the players, the girls had lied about their ages, claiming to be older.
Three girls, two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old, said they had spent the night in a hotel with several Trail Blazers. They gave authorities the first names of seven men, six of which corresponded to the first names of players on the Portland roster. The girls told of the incident after they were picked up for shoplifting the next day. The investigation eventually settled on four players.
According to Yocom, one 16-year-old said she had sex with three Trail Blazers and the other said she had sex with one. The 15-year-old said she did not have sex with any of the players.
One of the 16-year-olds had said in an interview that she had been coerced into sex, but Yocom said the 15-year-old told investigators she had witnessed the incident and that her friend had been a willing participant.
“The player had said basically ‘May I?’ and she said, ‘Yes,’ ” Yocom said.
Yocom said he felt he could have successfully pursued misdemeanor charges of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor, but the two girls did not wish to go through to the public exposure that would have come with a trial.
The suspensions will have little practical effect on the team, because Johnson and Murray rarely play.
Kersey and Smith both issued statements apologizing for their actions.
Kersey, 30, in his ninth NBA season, insisted that all he had done was meet the girls.
“I used very poor judgment by putting myself and the team in a position to be associated with a situation that tarnished the good name and image of my teammates and the Trail Blazers’ franchise,” he said. “I deeply regret the negative impact this has had on everyone, especially the community that has always supported us.”
Smith, who made the team as a free agent, said he wanted “to apologize for having any involvement in a situation that has damaged the positive reputation of a great team. I used poor judgment and you can be assured that I look on this as a very important learning experience.”