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Luke Walton’s attorney says his client’s innocence will be ‘proven in court’

Luke Walton’s attorney says his client’s innocence will be ‘proven in court’
Luke Walton looks on during a game between the Lakers and the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 9, 2018. (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Luke Walton’s attorney issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying the former Lakers coach would have his innocence “proven in court.”

Attorney Mark Baute also criticized a news conference the previous day in which former Spectrum SportsNet host Kelli Tennant reiterated her accusations of sexual assault against Walton.

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“Yesterday's press conference was a poorly staged attempt to portray the accuser as a viable spokesperson for an important movement,” Baute said in a statement emailed to The Times. “Her lawyers want to create a public circus to distract from their complete lack of evidence to support their outrageous claims. We will not try this case in the media or pay them a dime.”

Tennant’s attorneys, Garo Mardirossian and David deRubertis, filed a lawsuit on her behalf on Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. It alleges that Walton sexually assaulted her in a Santa Monica hotel room while he was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.

In the Tuesday afternoon news conference, Mardirossian said the incident happened in 2014, a detail that was not in the lawsuit. The complaint did mention a second incident that allegedly took place in May of 2017 at a charity function. Tennant said Walton leered at her and hugged her, renewing feelings of disgust that dated back to the alleged hotel room assault.

“I had to moderate a panel with him and talk about how amazing he was for an hour and it literally killed me inside,” she said.

Mardirossian also said Tennant told her immediate family and a few others close to her when the incident first happened, but did not tell her former employer, Spectrum SportsNet.

Baute in a statement on Monday, after the lawsuit became public, called Tennant an “opportunist, not a victim.”

No complaint has been made with the Santa Monica police, and the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges has expired. Louis Shapiro, a criminal defense lawyer, said there is a three-year statute of limitations on felony sexual battery. What Tennant described as over-clothing touching that she experienced happened too long ago to charge criminally.

David Ring, a plaintiff’s attorney who has won some of biggest sexual misconduct lawsuits in California, said there is 10-year statute of limitations in civil cases against the alleged perpetrator of a sexual assault.

Asked why he and Tennant did not go to police, Mardirossian said their interest was “not to have Mr. Walton put in jail or to be investigated by police necessarily.”

Maintaining that she has struggled for years to cope with the alleged incident, Kelli Tennant said she no longer can remain silent about her sexual assault claim against former Lakers coach Luke Walton.

On Tuesday, Tennant was asked several times to explain why she waited five years to come forward.

“I was scared,” she said. “When someone that you trust so much, that you’ve known for so long, that you truly believe will never do anything like this to you, pins you down to the bed, holds you down with his whole body weight and makes you think that he’s going to rape you, the last thing I was thinking about was how to come forward. I was scared for my job, my safety and what my life would be like.”

Walton was hired as head coach by the Sacramento Kings earlier this month, only days after parting ways with the Lakers.

Tennant’s lawsuit begins by stating that women connected to the NBA have long had to endure gender abuse and sexual exploitation by famous, wealthy and powerful men.

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“By this lawsuit, Ms. Tennant speaks up and says #timesup to the culture of abuse of women in the NBA that is demonstrated by the conduct of Defendant Luke Walton detailed below,” the suit said.

During her news conference, Tennant said she was “no longer comfortable being silent.” Several times, she paused to collect herself, especially as she described the alleged incident.

“I always believe that if sharing my story helps one woman feel a little more safe, then it’s always worth it,” Tennant said. “This is a very important conversation for me to have for myself. If it gives permission or a gateway for someone else to come forward and know that they have a safe place to do so, then that’s what matters to me.”

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