The civil rape trial of NBA star Derrick Rose opened Wednesday with jurors hearing two starkly different versions of events during an encounter in which the New York Knicks player and two friends are accused of sexually assaulting a woman.
Waukeen McCoy, an attorney for the 30-year-old accuser, presented her to the jury as the victim of a brutal sexual assault at the hands of Rose and two of his friends. The three men, McCoy said, carried out a plot to drug the woman and get her drunk, and then take advantage of her when she was unable to resist.
While she was “in and out of consciousness,” McCoy told jurors, “each of the men took turns raping her.”
The unsettling account was countered by a combative defense laid out by attorneys for Rose and co-defendants Randall Hampton and Ryan Allen. Far from being incapacitated and unwilling, the woman, they said, was clear-headed and eagerly invited the men to her apartment in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 2013.
“”She was coherent, organized and the orchestrator,” said Mark Baute, Rose’s attorney.
“This lawsuit is a fake,” Baute added. “A sad effort to get a lottery hit — nothing more.”
The heated and conflicting version of events came during opening statements to the panel of six women and two men in a downtown Los Angeles federal courtroom. They were the first volleys in a trial that will pit the credibility of Rose against his accuser, a former girlfriend. The woman has asked the jury to award her $21 million.
On Wednesday, the woman sat with her head in her hands during much of the opening statements, her face hidden behind her hair. On the table in front of her were several bunched up tissues that she used to wipe away tears.
The Times generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assaults.
The allegations stem from an encounter when Rose was living temporarily in Los Angeles. Rose and the woman had been in a relationship for two years.
Both sides agree the woman went with a friend to the Beverly Hills house that Rose was renting and consumed several drinks. From there, the stories diverge.
In his opening statement, McCoy said testimony from the woman and others, along with text messages exchanged throughout the night, would show she became incapacitated from excessive drinking and an unknown drug the men slipped into one of her drinks.
Hours later, after the woman had gone home, the men drove to her apartment uninvited and somehow gained entry without her knowing, McCoy said. The woman, drifting in and out of consciousness, was unable to stop the men as each took his turn having sex with her, the lawyer said. The incident left her fearful and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, McCoy told jurors.
Baute and Michael Monico, the attorney for Hampton and Allen, told jurors there was no evidence to support the woman’s claims, hammering on the fact that the woman did not seek medical attention after the encounter. Testimony and the exchange of text messages, they said, would reveal that the woman willingly engaged in sex with the three men earlier in the evening and then again at her apartment.
The 28-year-old Rose was not present in court Wednesday, opting instead to play in a pre-season game with the permission of U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald. He is expected to attend the trial Thursday and is likely to be called to testify by McCoy. The woman is expected to testify Thursday as well.
Rose emerged as one of the NBA’s elite guards after joining the league in 2008. After several seasons playing for the Chicago Bulls, Rose was traded this year to New York amid persistent questions about a string of injuries that have sidelined him for long stretches. A verdict against him could not only cost him millions in damages but would damage his reputation and could put a lucrative sponsorship deal with shoemaker Adidas at risk.
His accuser had to make the choice to surrender her privacy to bring the case against the men. During more than a year of legal wrangling in court filings and hearings, Fitzgerald had granted the woman’s request to keep her identity concealed from the public, despite protests from Rose’s attorney. The woman had said she feared harassment and threats from Rose’s large fan base if her name was made public.
In a ruling last month, however, Fitzgerald ordered that at trial the plaintiff would have to be named in order to maintain the court’s transparency and ensure a fair trial. Within minutes of arriving in the courtroom Tuesday as the process of selecting a jury got underway, the woman stood with a solemn face while her attorney introduced her by name.
Los Angeles police have confirmed they are continuing to investigate the case for possible criminal charges. The woman first approached police with her allegations last year.
For more news on federal courts in Southern California, follow me on Twitter: @joelrubin