Former NBA All-Star Dwight Howard is asking a Georgia court to dismiss a sexual assault and battery lawsuit filed against him in July, according to court documents obtained by ESPN.
The 37-year-old reportedly claims he engaged in "consensual sexual activity" with a man named Stephen Harper. But Howard maintains he didn't cause any injury. The initial filing alleges the encounter took place at Howard's home in Georgia in July 2021, after the two began communicating via social media in May.
In the complaint, Harper reportedly provided screenshots of alleged Instagram exchanges with Howard from 2021, in addition to an Uber receipt of Harper's trip to Howard's residence on the night of the meeting.
A July 2022 incident report from the Gwinnett County Police Department shows Harper reported the incident a year later and no charges were filed, ESPN said.
Harper filed the civil lawsuit earlier this year, as the statute of limitations for this type of filing is two years from the date of the incident. It also accuses Howard of "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and false imprisonment, which Howard denies.
One of Howard's attorneys, Justin Bailey, said Harper initiated legal action as a form of extortion after the eight-time All-Star ceased communication:
"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," Bailey told ESPN. "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."
Harper's attorney, Olga Izmaylova, told ESPN Howard's claim of consent was expected and not true. She also responded to Howard's representation and their claim of blackmail.
"We had some independent investigation to conduct and Mr. Harper had some private factors to consider," Izmaylova said, "before we all felt ready to proceed with the lawsuit."
Howard last played in the NBA in 2021-22 with the Los Angeles Lakers. At the time, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year indicated the next step in his career would be in WWE. Instead, he landed with the Taiwanese basketball league's Taoyuan Leopards.