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NBA’s Mason Hit With Civil Suit

July 10, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two teenage girls, who say Charlotte Hornets star Anthony Mason and his cousin raped them in a home during the NBA’s All-Star Game weekend, filed civil charges against the men Thursday.

Mason, 31, and a friend, Will Duggins, 24, pleaded guilty June 25 to endangering the two girls, ages 14 and 15, after prosecutors dropped sex abuse and statutory rape charges.

The civil suit, filed in State Supreme Court in Queens, N.Y., seeks more than $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages from both men.

``This lawsuit seeks redress in civil courts,″ said the victim’s lawyer Barry Washor. ``I know we have a strong case. There is a lot of forensic evidence. The girls passed a polygraph test that fully corroborates their story.″

But Mason’s agent, Don Cronson, said the charges had no merit.

``The charge they pleaded to was a greatly reduced misdemeanor charge,″ Cronson said. ``They basically pleaded guilty to bad judgment.″

The more serious charges were dropped because DNA tests failed to link the Mason to the girls, prosecutor Kenneth Appelbaum said. Mason could received eight years in prison on those charges. He was ordered to serve 200 hours of community service with the homeless at the Progressive Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

``It’s another attempt to squeeze money out of my client,″ Cronson said. ``It’s baseless and it will be shown so as the suit moves along.″

Prosecutors and detectives said Mason and Duggins, an unemployed construction worker, met the girls during a benefit basketball game at York College on Feb. 6. Mason was not elected to appear in the All Star game that was being played in New York that weekend.

Mason, a former New York Knicks star who was born in Queens, was traded to Charlotte in 1996. He pleaded guilty in November 1997 to disorderly conduct after scuffling with a police officer in Times Square in July 1996. He paid a $250 fine and apologized to police.

Washor said he also sent a letter to the NBA last month, asking that the league launch an inquiry on whether Mason has breached morality clauses in his NBA contract.

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