Iverson, Bodyguard Told to Pay $260,000
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
For someone being sued for $20 million, Allen Iverson didn't spend very much time in court: an hour or so, just long enough to tell the jury that he didn't see his security detail get into a brawl with two men at a downtown Washington club.
Yesterday, after six days of trial and about 13 hours of deliberations, a jury said the NBA star must be held accountable, ordering that Iverson and his bodyguard pay $260,000 in damages to one of the Maryland men roughed up in the fracas.
Iverson was not at the federal courthouse in Washington when the verdict was delivered, and neither was the bodyguard, Jason Kane. But jurors did give them one break: They decided against making the Denver Nuggets guard and his beefy 6-foot-3 security escort pay a fortune in punitive damages.
The $260,000 was awarded to Marlin Godfrey, 37, who said he suffered an injured rotator cuff, temporary loss of hearing and broken blood vessels in his head in the brawl early on July 20, 2005. The defendants were ordered to pay $10,000 for Godfrey's medical expenses and the rest to compensate him for pain and suffering.
The jury rejected claims by a second plaintiff, David A. Kittrell, also 37, who said he suffered bruises and emotional distress. Godfrey and Kittrell testified that they were beaten by Kane and another man, Terrence Williams, because they didn't leave the VIP section at Eyebar when Iverson's entourage arrived and told them to clear out.
"For me, it was never about the money," Godfrey, a Lanham-based martial arts school owner and instructor, said after the verdict. "It was holding them accountable for their actions."
The suit accused Iverson, 32, of failing to supervise his security team. The jury found that Williams, who described himself as an Iverson acquaintance, was not employed by the basketball star. But the panel held Iverson and Kane responsible for the trouble.
Stephanie D. Moran, one of Godfrey's attorneys, said the verdict "sent a clear message that Allen Iverson was accountable and he could not turn his head or say he didn't know."
The fighting occurred during Iverson's annual celebrity charity softball weekend. Iverson, a former Georgetown Hoya, will be in Washington this weekend for the event, which opens with a party Friday at the Love nightclub in Northeast.
Police investigated the fight at Eyebar, in the 1700 block of I Street NW, but no charges were filed in the case.
Attorneys for Iverson and Kane said they will appeal.
"We are tremendously displeased in the verdict," said Alan C. Milstein, who with co-counsel Billy Martin represented Iverson and Kane.
During the trial, Milstein and Martin argued that the lawsuit was about nothing but money, and in his testimony, Iverson said the plaintiffs "want to become rich overnight." Iverson testified that he was at Eyebar for about 20 minutes and did not see the five-minute fight erupt.
Kane, 35, testified that he shoved one of the club's security officers when he arrived at the nightspot but denied hitting Godfrey. Attorneys for Godfrey and Kittrell alleged that Kane struck Godfrey with wine glasses.
The jury returned its verdict in two stages. After awarding Godfrey the $260,000, the panel heard arguments about punitive damages. The plaintiffs' attorneys told the jury that Iverson's annual income was listed at $23 million. "What happened here has to be rectified," said Gregory Lattimer, an attorney for Godfrey.
The defense urged that no more money be awarded, saying that Iverson showed no malice and that Kane's security career was almost certainly in peril.
In interviews after the verdict, some jurors said the decision came down to the credibility of the witnesses.
"This whole case was based on witnesses, listening to Kane's friends versus Godfrey's friends," said jury foreman Dave Peterson. "Whose friends are you going to believe?"
Juror Althea Hill said the panel believed that Iverson was liable for the fight because he hired Kane. "When you hire someone to do work for you, you should check out all aspects and know everything there is to know about your employee," she said.
The jury said Williams, who witnesses agreed was at the center of the fight, was only attending a party at Eyebar and was not working for Iverson, as the plaintiffs' attorneys had contended.
Iverson could be returning to the courthouse soon for another court fight. Pending is a lawsuit involving a June 2004 incident at Zanzibar on the Waterfront, another D.C. nightclub. In that case, Gregory Broady, an information technology specialist from Maryland, is suing Iverson and Zanzibar, alleging that someone in Iverson's security team struck him in the head. Broady is seeking $750,000 in damages.
Milstein said that Iverson "doesn't even remember being there" the night of the Zanzibar fight and that Zanzibar's security was responsible for Broady's injuries. Zanzibar attorney Andrew B. Greenspan declined to comment on the case. A pretrial hearing is set for Friday.
Staff writer Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.