Former La Salle Players Acquitted in Rape Trial

Saturday, November 5, 2005

A jury acquitted two former La Salle University basketball players of rape yesterday, discounting prosecutors' contention that the woman involved was too drunk to consent to sex.

Attorneys for Gary Neal and Michael Cleaves maintained that the sex was consensual and that the woman, then 19, made up the allegation out of embarrassment after other female basketball players began to gossip.

"We put our faith in the jury system and they didn't let us down," said Wendy Goldstein , who represented Neal.

Prosecutors claimed Neal and Cleaves raped the visiting University of New Haven player, who was finishing up a one-week stint as a La Salle basketball camp counselor, as she vomited in a sink after drinking eight shots of high-proof alcohol in June 2004.

The case -- plus an unrelated rape allegation involving a third La Salle player -- ultimately led to the removal of both men's coach Billy Hahn and women's coach John Miller .

Neal, 21, of Baltimore, and Cleaves, 23, of Paterson, N.J., are no longer enrolled in the school.

A third former La Salle player, Dzaflo Larkai , has been charged with rape, sexual assault and related offenses for an alleged April 2003 encounter with a female La Salle player.

Larkai, a 23-year-old from England, was a roommate of Neal and Cleaves.

-- From News Services

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