Dwight Howard and his representation submitted another filing Thursday in their petition for a Gwinnett County court in Georgia to dismiss the sexual assault lawsuit against the former NBA star.
A man named Stephen Harper filed the suit in July. In addition to claiming Howard assaulted him during a sexual encounter at Howard’s Georgia home in July 2021, Harper’s suit included allegations of “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and false imprisonment.
Howard, 38, petitioned the court for dismissal in October. In his most recent filing, Howard claimed the lawsuit is completely unsubstantiated and maintained he, Harper and a third person engaged in a consensual encounter.
His Thursday filing, as cited by ESPN, questions Harper’s evidence and motives. It will be considered as the court determines a ruling regarding the petition.
In Harper’s initial complaint, his representation claimed he initiated an exchange with Howard via Instagram direct messages in May 2021. His filing included screenshots of alleged conversations between the two, leading up to July.
Howard’s attorneys questioned the legitimacy of the screenshots in their Thursday filing, claiming key messages were deleted and omitted from Harper’s complaint. The full conversations would show Harper’s openness to the events of their encounter, Howard’s representation claimed.
“In short, the totality of the text messages between Mr. Howard and Mr. Harper make it abundantly clear that Mr. Harper’s claims are frivolous, that he was a willing participant in the events of July 19, 2021, and the early morning hours of July 20, 2021, and that the touching of his person had been invited by him,” Howard’s attorneys write in Thursday’s filing, via ESPN.
The filing also claims Harper’s allegedly deleted messages include an attempt to see Howard again, following the alleged assault.
“More importantly, the explicit messages not only show consent but also that Mr. Harper was initiating some of the sexual contact. Mr. Harper not only invited the initial experience, but tried to initiate a second encounter because the first was so enjoyable,” Howard’s attorney wrote, according to ESPN. “As it is undisputed that Mr. Harper consented to the touching between him and Mr. Howard, Mr. Harper’s claims necessarily fail, and Mr. Howard is entitled to summary judgment as the clear consent negates the essential element of intent and the claims of Assault, Battery, False Imprisonment, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress fall like a house of cards.”
Harper reported details of his encounter with Howard to police a year after it occurred, according to a July 2022 incident report from the Gwinnett County Police Department. No charges were filed.
Howard’s attorneys claim Harper only initiated legal action after the eight-time All-Star failed to express further interest.
“This is nothing more than a classic case of unrequited love,” Howard’s lawyers wrote. “After one consensual evening together, Mr. Howard was no longer interested in keeping Mr. Harper’s company.”
The three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year’s legal representation also allege Harper threatened Howard and attempted to extort him for money,
“When these threats and several demands for money went unfulfilled,” Howard’s lawyers wrote, “Mr. Harper filed the instant lawsuit as revenge and in an attempt to tarnish Mr. Howard’s reputation, ‘get [his] attention,’ and fulfill the threat of telling the whole world about the private, consensual night.”
Howard’s last NBA campaign was the 2021-22 season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He debuted with the Taiwanese basketball league’s Taoyuan Leopards last fall.
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