Wizards’ Howard Wins Lawsuit
ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) _ Washington Wizards forward Juwan Howard told a judge Thursday that a woman who falsely accused him of sexual assault should pay him a symbolic $1 in damages to restore his reputation.
The judge took that a step further and ordered the Connecticut woman to pay Howard $100,000 in punitive damages plus legal costs for defamation of character.
``Your reputation will be restored,″ Montgomery County Circuit Judge Durke G. Thompson promised Howard.
Last April, Melissa Reed accused Howard and a teammate, Chris Webber, of sexually assaulting her during a party at Howard’s Potomac, Md., home.
In May, a grand jury decided not to bring criminal charges against the players, but Howard said Thursday that he still felt that his reputation was stained and had to be restored through civil action.
``Hopefully this sends a strong message to Melissa Reed and others like her,″ Howard said of the judgment.
Reed did not show up for the proceeding and failed to respond to the lawsuit.
``She didn’t have any money to hire a lawyer in Maryland,″ lawyer Ned Collier, who represents Reed in Connecticut but is not licensed to practice in Maryland, said during a telephone interview.
Collier said he was not surprised by the judgment since Reed was unable to have her say.
Asked if Reed was disappointed, Collier said, ``She was more upset that this chapter in her life that she thought was behind her was reopened by today’s events.″
Collier said Reed, who works as an office administrator in Bridgeport, Conn., would be unable to pay the damages awarded to Howard.
The basketball player said if he could collect the money he would donate it to the District of Columbia Rape Crisis Center.