Hornets' Mason Denies Rape Charge
Feb. 10, 1998
NEW YORK (AP) _ An embarrassed Anthony Mason apologized to his family and teammates Monday and denied charges that he had sex with 14- and 15-year-old sisters.
``Did I do this? No, definitely not,'' the Charlotte Hornets forward said following the team's practice at an Upper West Side fitness club. ``I'm innocent.''
Mason was charged Sunday with statutory rape, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child following accusations by the girls that he and a cousin had sex with them. Mason, who was released on $20,000 bail, faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
``I'd like to say I'm sorry to my family and for the embarrassment of this situation,'' Mason said. ``Once again, it's a silly situation. I'd like to say sorry for the embarrassment to the team.''
After making his short statement, Mason hurried out of the Reebok Sports Club and boarded a chartered bus with his teammates for the short trip back to the Plaza Hotel. The Hornets play the Knicks Tuesday night.
Before joining Mason on the bus, his agent, Don Cronson, reiterated his client's stance.
``He did nothing wrong, nothing illegal,'' Cronson said. ``Nothing, nothing, nothing.''
Cronson was asked if Mason had an alibi.
``Alibi? I don't know if that's the correct term,'' he said. ``He's innocent of the charges, that's his alibi. He didn't do it.''
Many of the Hornets looked surprised when the team arrived for Monday practice to find TV crews and reporters staked out. The players and coach Dave Cowens refused to comment.
In their complaint, the girls said Mason and his cousin, William Duggins, an unemployed construction worker who was also charged, met them during a benefit basketball game then drove to Duggins' home.
Mason, who was in town visiting family over the weekend during the All-Star break, is accused of having sex with the girls in a basement bedroom at the house. The sexual abuse charge stemmed from events in a limousine on the way there, according to the complaint.
Cronson said Mason was in the car with the girls but that all they were doing was ``driving around.''
Meanwhile, the Queens district attorney's office has asked Mason for a blood sample, which the basketball player will provide on March 9 when he next appears in court.
Mason was one of the Knicks' most popular players before being traded to Charlotte in 1996. But while he was with the club, he had other scrapes with the law.
In late 1995 and early 1996, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Mason was involved in two fights at Manhattan nightclubs. In one, he was accused of hitting a woman; in the other, he said he was trying to break up a fight.
Later in 1996, Mason was charged with felony assault during a scuffle with police over a Times Square parking ticket.