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Rape case against Bob Hewitt postponed to May

January 10, 2014

BOKSBURG, South Africa (AP) — A court in South Africa postponed the rape and sexual assault case against former Grand Slam doubles champion Bob Hewitt until May 9 after prosecutors mislaid paperwork, Hewitt’s lawyer said on Friday.

Lawyer Alwyn Griebenow told The Associated Press that prosecutors would have to reapply for the charges of rape and indecent assault against Hewitt to be centralized so they can be heard in the same court.

The 73-year-old Hewitt, who was suspended from tennis’ international hall of fame in 2012 over the allegations, is accused of two counts of rape and one count of indecent assault of underage girls he coached in the 1980s and 1990s.

Two of the offenses are alleged to have occurred in Boksburg, a city east of Johannesburg. The third allegedly took place at the Sun City casino resort in northern South Africa, a different court jurisdiction and the reason why prosecutors need to apply for the charges to be brought together.

Hewitt didn’t appear at Boksburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday and has missed all three preliminary hearings citing ill health. Griebenow said he was hopeful a trial date would be set on May 9 and he would receive indictment papers.

“Well I’m praying for that. We’ve been hoping for a trial date all along,” he said.

A spokesperson for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority didn’t immediately respond to telephone calls and messages seeking comment.

The Australia-born Hewitt was inducted into the Rhode Island-based hall of fame as a master of the doubles craft after winning nine Grand Slam doubles titles and six mixed doubles titles in the 1960s and 1970s. He played with greats like Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King.

His legacy was stripped from the hall after an investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse.

In court papers in South Africa, Hewitt is accused of raping a girl under the age of 16 at Sun City in 1981 and raping another girl under the age of 16 “at or near” a tennis club in Boksburg in 1982. He is also accused of indecent assault against a girl under the age of 18 in Boksburg in 1994.

Hewitt denies the charges.

Prosecutors want the charges heard in a high court in Johannesburg but Griebenow said he would apply to have the trial moved near to where Hewitt lives on South Africa’s south coast, claiming his client is too old and ill to travel.

His doctor said in court documents last year that Hewitt had a stroke in 2010, a heart attack in 2011 and also suffered from anxiety attacks and depression among other health problems.

One of the alleged victims, Suellen Sheehan, has attended every one of the court hearings and has challenged Hewitt to face her. The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse but Sheehan, who was a young player coached by Hewitt, agreed to be identified.

At least one other woman in the United States has accused Hewitt of sexual abuse.

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