Former NBA star Dennis Rodman testified Thursday that he did not recall meeting or having sex with a woman who claims in a lawsuit he raped her at his Newport Beach home after giving her a beer laced with a date-rape drug.
Jo Len Ann McGowen, a 39-year-old former waitress, is suing Rodman over an incident she says occurred in March 2001.
Rodman was the first witness in the case being heard before Superior Court Judge James M. Brooks in Santa Ana.
Among potential witnesses named by the plaintiff is Tina New, a model who this year settled with Rodman for an undisclosed amount after she filed a suit complaining he drugged and raped her in 1999.
Newport Beach police investigated the McGowen incident when she reported it about two weeks later, but -- as in the Tina New case -- no criminal charges were filed due to lack of evidence.
“I don’t recall having sex with your client,” Rodman said tersely after McGowen’s lawyer, Marcus A. Mancini, pressed him on the point. “I think it’s possible, but I don’t recall.”
As far as drugging women and then forcing himself upon them, Rodman said that would be out of the question. “I don’t need to,” he said.
Dressed in a crisp white button-down shirt and jeans, his hair dyed in blue and aqua swirls and his ears, lips and nose pierced with rings, Rodman chose to sit in the audience with his wife, Michelle, rather than at the defense table.
Leaving the Santa Ana courthouse after his half-hour on the stand, Rodman, 42, said his fame makes him a target for greed-motivated lawsuits.
“It’s stupid,” he said. “It’s like, there’s Dennis Rodman, he’s very colorful and very different. That’s why it’s happening.”
In his opening statement, Mancini said the incident caused McGowen “embarrassment, humiliation, pain and grief.” He said she was locked in a room at Rodman’s house where she slipped in and out of consciousness, at one point waking up to find him having sex with her and banging her head against the headboard.
“The theme of this case is ‘Bad as I Want to Be,’ ” Mancini said. “That’s what Mr. Rodman considers himself. ... He does whatever he likes.”
McGowen was a waitress in Costa Mesa at the time. She now has a different job, her attorney said, but he wouldn’t say in what field or where she lives.
The charges by McGowen are inconsistent with Rodman’s conduct and lifestyle, said his attorney, John McKay. Rodman testified that he is adamantly against using or supplying drugs.
That night, McKay said, McGowen and two co-workers went out to drink and dance and that she made a beeline for Rodman when she saw him at his Newport Beach restaurant and club, Josh Slocum’s. “She wouldn’t leave him alone,” McKay said. “She was the instigator of any contact with him.”
She drank five cocktails, which, when combined with the prescription medication she was taking for migraines, caused a loss of memory and control, McKay said.
Rodman has long been known for his flamboyant ways and run-ins with the law. Police have responded more than 80 times to party-related noise complaints at Rodman’s beachfront home since he moved in five years ago.
He has been arrested several times in Orange County on charges including drunk driving and fighting at bars. Most of those charges were dropped.
While playing for the Chicago Bulls, Rodman was suspended and fined several times for his behavior, including hitting another player in the groin, kicking a courtside television cameraman and head-butting a referee. After he made a series of expletive-laced comments about Mormons while playing a game in Utah in 1997, he was fined an NBA record $50,000 and lost his Carl’s Jr. sponsorship.
But anyone who knows him knows he wouldn’t commit rape, Rodman said outside the courtroom. He’s known around Newport Beach for his noisy parties, he said, not for assaulting women.
He declined to speak further about the case.
“To respect her and respect me, let’s let it all unfold,” he said.