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Jury Rejects Woman's Sexual-Assault Suit Against Rodman

August 09, 2003|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County jury sided with Dennis Rodman on Friday and against a woman who said the former professional basketball star laced her beer with a date-rape drug and sexually assaulted her.

The jury in the civil suit deliberated for less than an hour over Thursday and Friday before returning its verdicts. "That caught us by surprise that it was that quick," said Rodman's attorney, John McKay.

Rodman, who testified last week, was not in court when the verdicts were read.

"He was very pleased," McKay said. "This was something he felt strongly about. He didn't do what she said he did."

Marcus Mancini, the attorney for plaintiff Jo Len Ann McGowen, said he would appeal. He called the trial "a giant dirt-fest against my client" and said the judge should not have allowed some of the evidence.

McGowen, 39, said in her lawsuit that the incident occurred at Rodman's Newport Beach house in March 2001. She made a police report two weeks later. No criminal charges were filed.

Rodman, with blue-and-aqua hair and rings in his ears, lips and nose, testified that he didn't remember having sex with McGowen or even meeting her.

McKay argued that McGowen sidled up to Rodman when she saw him at Josh Slocum's, a Newport Beach restaurant and bar he co-owns. He said that she drank five cocktails, which, combined with medicine she was taking for migraines, caused her to lose her memory and control.

Two women with her at the restaurant and at his home testified that the sex was consensual. Rodman had breakfast with one of them two days later in an attempt to influence her story, Mancini said.

Another who testified on McGowen's behalf was Tina New, a model who received an undisclosed amount to settle her suit charging that Rodman drugged and raped her in 1999.

McGowen, who was a waitress in Costa Mesa, had asked the jury for $750,000 in damages

The jury voted 10 to 2 to clear Rodman of the sexual battery allegation. It also rejected an assault count, 9 to 3; false imprisonment and battery, 12 to 0; and intent to inflict emotional distress, 10 to 2.

Unlike a criminal case, in which a unanimous jury is needed for a verdict, nine jurors must agree in a civil suit.

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