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Assault Inquiry Includes Byears

Released by Sparks two months ago, she is under investigation by sheriff's detectives for alleged sexual assault of another former Spark player.

August 14, 2003|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

Former Spark forward Latasha Byears, abruptly released by the team two months ago, is one of several people under investigation by L.A. County Sheriff's detectives in the alleged sexual assault of a former Spark player.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, Byears, 30, and a man with no connection to the team allegedly took part in an attack on the player, who has not been identified.

Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, said Wednesday that "there was an ongoing investigation involving basketball players." She added there could be no further comment unless charges were filed.

Sheriff's Deputy David Cervantes told Associated Press that a report was taken in the case.

Spark spokeswoman Kristal Shipp, who is with the team in Minneapolis, issued a statement confirming the team's knowledge of the investigation.

"We are aware of the serious nature of the police investigation, and we are cooperating in every way," the statement said. "We don't know the facts, so until the investigation and the judicial process, if there is one, is completed, it would not be appropriate for us to make any additional comments at this time."

WNBA spokesman John Maxwell said league officials "are aware of an investigation in Los Angeles, but beyond that we don't know any of the particulars and don't feel we can comment."

Byears, who has not been signed by another team, has been unavailable for comment.

The alleged assault took place at a party June 5 after the Sparks' game at Staples Center against Sacramento -- the night the team received its 2002 championship rings.

Byears traveled with the Sparks to Sacramento on June 6 for their game against the Monarchs but returned to Los Angeles that night. Spark officials said then that she had gone back to handle a personal matter. She did not return to Sacramento for the June 7 game.

Byears did not play again for the Sparks and was released June 10. At the time, Coach Michael Cooper said the team was looking for more offensive firepower, and the team signed guard Sophia Witherspoon.

Byears was usually the first or second reserve put into the game by Cooper.

*

SPARKS TONIGHT

at Minnesota, 5 PDT

Site -- Target Center.

Radio -- KPLS (830).

Records -- Sparks 19-10, Lynx 16-13.

Record vs. Lynx -- 2-0.

Update -- Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton are expected to rejoin the Sparks' lineup tonight, and not a moment too soon. The Sparks have staggered through the second half of the season (4-7) and trail first-place Houston by a half-game in the Western Conference. Leslie will be playing for the first time since injuring her right knee in the July 10 All-Star game. Milton missed three games because of a bad ankle. The Sparks better not get caught looking ahead to Saturday's showdown with Houston. Minnesota is trying to hang on to the fourth and final playoff spot in the West, a game ahead of charging Sacramento. Not only are the Lynx trying to make the playoffs for the first time since joining the WNBA in 1999 (as well as record the franchise's first winning season), they have never beaten the Sparks in Minnesota (0-7).

-- Mike Terry

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