Two Wizards Named in Complaint
By Katherine Shaver and Ric Bucher
Montgomery County police are investigating an unidentified woman's allegations of sexual assault involving Washington Wizards stars Juwan Howard and Chris Webber. The assault allegedly occurred early yesterday at a Potomac home during a party attended by about 40 people, police said last night.
Webber and Howard attended a morning basketball practice at MCI Center yesterday, and, when asked about the allegations, described them as "ludicrous." Howard added, "It depresses you, because it's a distraction to your family, especially when it's totally untrue."
The two later accompanied the team to Chicago, where the Wizards play the Bulls tonight, but neither player could be reached for additional comment.
The allegations prompted police searches last night at a house in the Avenel area of Potomac, where police said Howard lives and where the assault allegedly occurred, and at Webber's Mitchellville home inside a private gated development. Police provided no information about what they were seeking at the two homes.
Cpl. George Ludington, a police spokesman, said that no criminal charges have been filed and that detectives want to talk with Howard and Webber, both 25. But he said detectives would wait until the two players returned from Chicago tomorrow.
"It is important to note that at this time we make no judgments as to the events in question and will seek to clarify what actually happened in cooperation with the Montgomery County state's attorney's office," Ludington said.
Ludington said detectives were interviewing potential witnesses. "We're looking for anybody at the party to interview," he said.
Howard and Webber have had brushes with the law recently. Howard was charged in November 1996 with driving while intoxicated after a D.C. police officer spotted him speeding in his 1995 Mercedes-Benz near 22nd and L streets NW. He failed two Breathalyzer tests. He later completed a driver safety course, and the charge was dropped.
Webber was arrested Jan. 20 and charged with second-degree assault, resisting arrest, marijuana possession, driving under the influence of drugs and several other traffic offenses after he was stopped in Landover on the way to practice.
Maryland has moved to suspend his driving privileges for six months, and he is scheduled to appear before a hearing examiner April 23. The criminal case is set for May 7.
Yesterday, few details of the woman's allegations were released. "Everyone needs to understand this is not a rape case" but rather an investigation of a complaint of sexual assault, Ludington said. Under Maryland law, sexual assault a felony can range from inappropriate touching to forced oral sex.
Ludington said the woman called police about 4:30 a.m., said she had been sexually assaulted and named Howard and Webber in her complaint. She was later examined at a local hospital and questioned by police, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Wes Unseld, the general manager of the Wizards, said last night: "We know very little about the situation. We haven't heard from the authorities on any specific individual, and we'll wait to hear from them before making any direct comment."
Unseld said he did not know enough about the early morning party to comment about it.
Neither man's attorneys could be reached last night for comment. However, William R. Martin, who represents Howard, was inside the house on Chartwell Manor Court, which overlooks the Avenel golf course, while police spent about three hours searching it. He declined to comment as he left the house.
Detectives left the house shortly after 9 p.m. with six bags of unspecified items.
No one answered the door at the house after police left, though at least one person was inside.
Staff writers Ruben Castaneda, Brian Mooar and Manuel Perez- Rivas contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company