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Anthony Mason, China Club, Bouncers, Maitre d’ Sued in Fracas

April 30, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Three patrons of the China Club are charging in a $54 million lawsuit that they were beaten and injured in the nightclub last summer by New York Knicks forward Anthony Mason and three club employees.

Alice Kupferberg, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said one of her clients was cut just under his left eye with a broken champagne bottle and another, a woman who was celebrating her 30th birthday, was pushed over a table.

Kupferberg said the fracas began with arguing, shoving and hitting at Mason’s table in the club on the Upper West Side around 3:45 a.m. on July 25, 1995. She said her clients, part of a party of eight, tried to leave when the melee spilled over to their table.

Club bouncers rushed into the area to investigate, Kupferberg said, and seeing the group trying to flee, roughed them up. She said Mason, 30, joined the bouncers in assaulting members of the group, including her clients.

Kupferberg said police arrested several members of her clients’ group but ignored their complaints against Mason and demeaned them with ethnic slurs. She said they are of Albanian descent and live in Yonkers.

The suit was filed Monday in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court on behalf of Ali Zherka, 28, his sister, Hatixha ``Gigi″ Zherka, 30, and their friend, Hasan Kurti, 24. It was Gigi Zherka’s birthday the group was celebrating and Kurti was the person whose face was slashed, Kupferberg said.

The suit names Mason, the club, two bouncers and a maitre d’ as defendants. Each plaintiff is seeking $6 million from Mason and $12 million from the club and its three employees.

Michael Barrett, general manager of the China Club said, ``This is what we call in the business a `copycat’ lawsuit.″ Barrett was referring to a suit threatened by Darlene Bonilla, 25, who said Mason had hit her while she was in the same club on April 15.

``He did absolutely nothing to her,″ Barrett said. As for the July 1995 incident, ``We had nothing to do with these Albanians,″ he said. ``When people are fighting we try to separate them and get them out of the club.″

Mason’s agent, Don Cronson, would not comment on the lawsuit’s specifics because he had not seen the papers. But he, too, called it ``a copycat suit, just another instance of somebody trying to get a piece of the action.″

Knicks spokesman Josh Rosenfeld said he had no comment.

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