Lawyers for Dwight Howard are hitting back at claims he assaulted a man he met on social media, calling their encounter “consensual” and requesting the suit be thrown out.
The former Los Angeles Lakers star is the target of a civil lawsuit in Georgia filed by a man identified as Stephen Harper. He alleges the former NBA player sexually assaulted him in Howard’s home in July 2021 after the met on Instagram.
According to court documents obtained by ESPN, Howard, 37, said they engaged in “consensual sexual activity” and denied causing any injury.
Harper’s July 2023 civil complaint alleges he and Howard began direct messaging each other on the social media platform in May 2021.
Per the filing, the correspondence led to the meetup during which Harper claims Howard sexually assaulted him.
Harper, who reportedly initiated the exchange, also accuses Howard of “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and false imprisonment.
ESPN also obtained an incident report filed with the Gwinnett County Police Department in July 2022. No charges were filed, according to the outlet.
“What was a private consensual encounter was made public for profit and Mr. Howard looks forward to bringing the truth to light in a court of law,” a member of Howard’s legal counsel, Justin Bailey, told the outlet.
The attorney added that blackmail tactics are being used against the eight-time All-Star for his indelicate way of cutting off communication after the hookup.
“The allegations against Mr. Howard are contested. Mr. Howard intends to present the truth. The truth is Mr. Howard blocked Mr. Harper on social media and then was confronted with two options — pay to protect his reputation or have a fabricated story made public. Despite being an easy target due to the subject matter and his status as a celebrity, Mr. Howard chose to trust in the justice system and will rely on all future court filings to speak for themselves.”
Meanwhile, Harper’s lawyer Olga Izmaylova told ESPN that her client did not consent and that they “fully anticipated Mr. Howard to raise the issue of consent in his Answer.”
Howard — a three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner — last played in the NBA during the 2021-22 season for the Los Angeles Lakers. The first overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft was a member of the team when it won the NBA finals in 2020.
The 6-foot-10 Atlanta native played 18 seasons in the league and signed with the Taiwanese-based Taoyuan Leopards in 2022.