Former NBA star Dwight Howard denies sexual assault lawsuit filed by Georgia man

FILE - Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard looks on prior to an NBA basketball game, Jan. 27, 2022, in Philadelphia. In a response to a state civil suit filed this week by his attorney, Howard has denied accusations by a Georgia man who says he was sexually assaulted by the former NBA star and another person. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Dwight Howard has denied accusations by a Georgia man who says he was sexually assaulted by the former NBA star and another person.

Stephen Harper filed a state civil lawsuit against Howard in July, alleging assault and battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. No criminal charges have been filed against Howard.

In a response filed this week by his attorney, Howard described the 2021 encounter at his home in the Atlanta suburbs as consensual and requested that the case be dismissed.

Harper's lawsuit says he met Howard through Instagram, and they exchanged explicit text messages before arranging to meet at Howard's home on July 19, 2021.

While on his way to the Gwinnett County residence, Harper says Howard texted him to ask if another man or woman could join their planned sexual encounter. Harper says he told Howard he was not interested.

Once at Howard's home, Harper claims they were joined by a man dressed as a woman who identified only as “Kitty.” Harper says he tried to resist the two men, but Howard and Kitty forced him to participate in sexual activity.

“Mr. Harper was trapped in Defendant’s bedroom and believed that he would suffer imminent bodily harm if he resisted Defendant’s sexual advances,” the lawsuit said. Afterward, “Mr. Harper felt extremely violated and humiliated, and was in complete shock.”

Howard denied the allegations in his response, which says the three men agreed to “engage in consensual sexual activity.” He asked for a summary judgment, with court costs and attorney fees to be assessed against Harper.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault unless they have agreed to be named publicly.

Harper reported the alleged assault to Gwinnett County police nearly a year later, on July 15, 2022. After the initial report, police tried to schedule a time for him to come in for a formal interview, according to a police incident report. After making several attempts to meet with him, the detective suspended the case because of a lack of participation from the alleged victim, police said.

The 37-year-old Howard was an eight-time All Star, three-time defensive player of the year and one of the NBA's most dominant centers during the prime of his 18-year professional career.

He played for seven franchises, most notably the Orlando Magic — who took him with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2004 draft out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy — and the Los Angeles Lakers, the team he was with for his lone NBA title during the pandemic-affected 2019-20 season.

Howard had three different stints with the Lakers, including in 2021-22, his last NBA season. He has career averages of 15.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, leading the league in rebounding five times.

But Howard also had the reputation as being a disruptive presence in the locker room, not spending more than one season with the same team over his last six seasons in the league. Howard played in Taiwan during the 2022-2023 season.