LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jurors cleared NBA star Derrick Rose and two friends Wednesday in a lawsuit that accused them of gang raping his ex-girlfriend when she was incapacitated from drugs or alcohol.
The jury reached the verdict in federal court in Los Angeles after hearing dramatically different accounts of the August 2013 sexual encounter.
Rose says he’s thankful that the jury rejected the lawsuit.
“I am thankful that the jury understood and agreed with me,” his statement said. “This experience and my sensitivity to it was deep. I am ready to put this behind me and focus on my family and career.”
Jurors later posed for photographs with Rose one at a time in the courthouse lobby.
One of the two men among the eight jurors who identified himself only by his first name and age, Jared, 25, said the panel tried to look at the case in the plaintiff’s favor but in the end could not believe her and felt her tears were not genuine.
“It felt like she was playing us,” he said.
Neither side denied the three men had sex with the woman, but the issue was whether she consented or was too intoxicated to do so.
Defense lawyers tarred the woman as a liar who tried to sway jurors through her tears to get at Rose’s fortune. They claimed she was angry he had dumped her and she set him up and brought the lawsuit in hopes of a big payoff.
The woman’s lawyer called the men “sexual deviants” and says they conspired to gang rape her after she was drunk and incapable of consenting to sex.
Rose was in court, looking down as the verdict was read.
As soon as the first question was answered by the jury, his attorney got up and shook the hand of each of the three defendants.
“All three men were innocent from Day 1,” Rose’s attorney, Mark Baute, said. “We’re very happy that the system worked.”
The woman’s attorney, Waukeen McCoy, said he will explore appeal options.
“I think it’s a shame for women, for this country that a celebrity can come into court and slut-shame a woman like my client,” McCoy said.
Though the accuser’s reaction could not be seen as the verdict was read, McCoy said she was devastated and did not understand how jurors could reach their conclusion.
The woman, who became emotional and trembled while testifying, had sought $21.5 million when she filed suit, but her attorney did not put a price on the case Tuesday during closing arguments, saying it was up to the jury.
Rose’s lawyer said the future of the Knicks point guard and his whole family was at stake because of a morals clause in his player contract and an endorsement deal with Adidas.
Baute urged jurors to recognize the suit as a “hoax and a joke” and not even award $20 because that could destroy Rose’s career and trigger financial ruin for the star and the extended family and friends he had pulled out of poverty from Chicago’s south side with his talent on the court.
Lawyers sparred for nearly three hours during the bitter closing arguments.
The woman’s lawyer said the 30-year-old college student was not a gold digger and was seeking accountability for what was morally and legally wrong.
He said the men had never apologized or shown any remorse and said their behavior was reprehensible enough to trigger punitive damages beyond any compensation.
“The three men laughed their way home,” attorney McCoy said.
The defense portrayed Rose and his childhood pals, Ryan Allen and Randall Hampton, who both work for him, as victims in the case and the lawyers mocked the woman’s lies and demeanor on the witness stand.
“This woman has tried to trick people through much of her life, men especially,” attorney Michael Monico said. “Who is she trying to trick in this courtroom, ladies and gentlemen? You. She doesn’t have any evidence, but she can cry.”
The Associated Press does not generally name people who say they are victims of sex crimes.
Rose, 28, was traded to New York this year after spending seven seasons in his native Chicago, where he won Rookie of the Year honors with the Bulls and was the youngest player to be awarded MVP in 2011.
He has been plagued with knee injuries the past few seasons and is in the final year of a five-year deal that will pay him $21.3 million.