Isiah's harassment trial heats up quickly

Isiah's harassment trial heats up quickly

Isiah's harassment trial heats up quickly
New York Post

Knick President and coach Isiah Thomas can be a charmer with a crowd, but a former team executive suing him for alleged sexual harassment told jurors yesterday he's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

"He was always starting sentences with the word 'bitch,' " statuesque ex-marketing veep Anucha Browne Sanders testified in Manhattan federal court.

"Bitch, I don't give a f- - - about the sponsors. Bitch, I don't give a f- - - about ticket sales. That's your job," Sanders quoted Thomas as telling her whenever she tried to involve players in promotional events for the failing team.

Sanders managed to maintain her cool in the courtroom, even as the seemingly unfazed Thomas bizarrely laughed while she talked.

Sanders, a senior vice president for the team from 2000 to 2006, acknowledged that in public, Thomas is "very pleasant and personable. He was the Isiah that we see."

But behind the scenes, the hotheaded coach, who joined the team in 2003, flew into frequent rages, dropping f-bombs and targeting venom toward her, the team's only female vice president, she said.

He also allegedly took aim at whites.

Sanders said that when she asked Thomas at one point to hand-sign letters to season-ticket holders, he spat, "I don't give a f- - - about these white people."

She said that prompted her to remind the coach that 80 percent of the team's season-ticket holders are white.

A 6-foot-1, former college basketball star, Sanders stayed composed as she recounted the alleged verbal abuse and her repeated complaints to her bosses.

But she finally cracked when she said Thomas suddenly flipped his approach - professing his love and suggesting they go "off-site."

Thomas first pulled her aside at a Christmas party in 2004, and the two had joined in a basketball game called "horse," Sanders said.

That's when Thomas told her, "I figured out why we have problems. It's because we're so much alike. I'm in love with you. It's like the movie, 'Love and Basketball,' " Sanders said.

"I said, 'You're out of your mind,' " Sanders said. "I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. I was just nervous."

Sometime later, Thomas called Sanders to a meeting in his office, purportedly to discuss staffing issues, closed the door and gave her a "big hug," she said.

"He said, 'You know I'm in love with you,' " Sanders recalled. "I said, 'Isiah, we just need to figure out a way to work together. Where else do you have an African-American president of the Garden, an African-American president of the team and an African-American vice president?'

"It is a tremendous message to minorities that this even exists," a teary-eyed Sanders recalled saying, clearing her throat as she struggled to repeat his response.

"I want to take you off-site for some private time," she said Thomas told her.

In opening statements yesterday, Thomas' lawyer Kathleen Bogas denied that the Knick honcho had ever acted inappropriately toward Sanders, either verbally or sexually. She called him "nothing other than a total gentleman."

Bogas said Sanders didn't like the changes that Thomas made when he took over the team and "decided to lash out ... played the sexual-harassment card."

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Marbury admits intern tryst at Isiah trial
New York Post

New York Knick guard Stephon Marbury was grilled about seedy sex with a team intern in a truck as he took the witness stand at his boss Isiah Thomas' sexual-harassment trial — a case Marbury admitted he's laughed off from the start.
Hunched in the hot seat in a stylish tan checked jacket, Marbury 'fessed up to crassly luring the college student into his vehicle outside a strip club, calling out, "Are you going to get in the truck?"

He said she answered, "Yes."

"It really wasn't a conversation," said the cocky team captain, admitting he knew the woman was an intern but denying he was aware she was drunk.

Marbury was forced to admit to further encounters with the intern after the April 2005 incident, but the judge quickly cut off the questioning because Marbury is not a defendant in the lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court by fired Knick executive Anucha Browne Sanders.

But the star point guard didn't hesitate to take a shot at the sexual-harassment case that charges his coach with verbally abusing Sanders for a year and then suddenly telling her he was "in love" and asking her to go "off-site."

Sanders is suing for $10 million and job reinstatement.

"When you heard about this lawsuit, you thought it was funny, correct?" asked Sanders' lawyer, Anne Vladek.

"I laughed. I meant it was more of a joke than anything," Marbury said.

The point guard said he and Sanders got off on the wrong foot from the minute he joined the team.

"I went to ask her for some [Madison Square Garden] passes. She told me this wasn't Phoenix or New Jersey," Marbury said. "She said, 'I don't know how things were done [there], but that's not how we're doing things here.' "

Their dynamic further soured when Sanders was forced to hire Marbury's cousin, Hassan Gonsalves, who was later fired from the Knicks after he forged supervisors' signatures on time sheets and for sexually harassing an employee.

Asked if he disliked Sanders, the basketball star said, "I never even had thought about her. I didn't have a reason not to like her."

But after a lawyer read from a transcript of a videotaped deposition that was taken before the trial, Marbury was forced to admit he felt animosity and had vented his anger at Sanders to another team executive.

"Yes, I called her a bitch," Marbury said. "I said a lot of different things . . . I said she doesn't run s- - -. . . . I may have said f- - - her. I didn't call her a black bitch."

Allegations of rampant verbal abuse is central in Sanders' case against Thomas, who she claims started every sentence to her with the word "bitch."

But Marbury jumped to his coach's defense, claiming he never heard Thomas curse at Sanders, saying it was "not his persona."

"That's not his style," Marbury said.

The hoops player then left the court grinning ear to ear and hopped into an elevator with a group of reporters, saying, "Man, money makes you do crazy things."

Then the star paused and weirdly added, "I'm talking about that man who tried to jump off the thing for the cash."

Jurors got a darker picture of Marbury at the start of testimony yesterday, when Sanders described his sexual exploits in his truck during her most emotional moment during two days on the witness stand.

Weeping and sniffling, Sanders recalled how the distraught intern had told her, "I wouldn't have gotten in [the truck], but I felt like I had to."

"When she got into the car, she basically did whatever he wanted her to do. They basically had sexual relations," said Sanders, dabbing her eyes as she revealed that the intern was dating Marbury's cousin, Gonsalves.

"She considered it consensual because she got in the car," Sanders said.

Contradicting Marbury's claim that he'd picked up the intern outside the strip club, Sanders said the basketball star actually propositioned her at St. John's University in Queens after following her and his cousin there in his truck.

"I was stunned," Sanders said.

Sanders said she immediately reported the incident to Knick officials, but they never questioned Marbury about the incident - a failure that the fired executive is using to bolster her case that the Garden failed to address sexual-harassment complaints.

Sanders claims she was fired in December 2005 in retaliation for making numerous complaints about sexual harassment that she and other employees were forced to endure.

Vice president of marketing since 2000, Sanders testified that Marbury always disliked her, refusing to participate in promotional events and demanding special privileges against team rules.

Sanders said she learned Marbury was cursing her behind her back, calling her "black bitch," and she made additional complaints - only to get an ominous call from Knick president Steven Mills.

"Isiah Thomas is going to start a rumor about you having an affair with . . . another employee in the office," Mills allegedly told Sanders.

"Is that a threat?" Sanders recalled asking Mills, who answered, "That's not a threat."

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This is starting to get juicy  ;D

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Knicks exec Thomas says use of term by white, black men differs
September 18, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -To New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, hearing a white man refer to a black woman using a certain vulgar term would be ``highly offensive.''
   
But he said he wouldn't be so offended if he heard a black man use the same term to refer to a black woman.

``I do make a distinction,'' Thomas said in a videotaped deposition played for a jury Monday in his sexual harassment trial.

A former female team executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, is seeking $10 million in damages on her claim that she was fired because she accused Thomas of harassment. She has said that Thomas repeatedly called her by the word, ``bitch,'' which the Knicks coach was addressing in the videotaped deposition.

He denied calling Browne Sanders vulgar names.

``I never cursed at Miss Sanders,'' a mild-mannered Thomas said in the tape, which was projected on a big screen in a packed federal courtroom in the second week of the widely publicized trial.

``Now have I ever used curse words around her, yes, but at her? No,'' Thomas said in response to questions posed by attorneys.

The airing of the deposition came during the second week of a trial that has exposed the Knicks - one of the NBA's most-storied franchises - to a series of damaging allegations just weeks before the start of training camp. The lawsuit has portrayed Madison Square Garden as more dysfunctional frat house than hallowed basketball arena.

The lawsuit claims Browne Sanders was fired ``for telling the truth'' about vulgarity and unwanted advances by Thomas, also a team president.

Thomas has adamantly denied the allegations.

Robert Levy, an employment lawyer and a Knicks season ticket holder, also testified Monday that he attended an open practice event at Madison Square Garden in October 2005 and witnessed an encounter between Thomas and Browne Sanders, a former Knicks vice president.

Levy said he was seated in the stands with his son and saw Thomas in a conversation nearby with Browne Sanders and another man.

Thomas was praising the great job Browne Sanders was doing, and Levy said he saw Thomas place his arm around her shoulders and heard him remark ``it was distracting working with someone easy on the eyes.''

The incident lasted only a few minutes, with Browne Sanders pulling away, displaying an uncomfortable expression on her face at the time, Levy testified.

Browne Sanders testified Monday that Thomas repeatedly called her a nasty name during business meetings.

She made those claims during an aggressive cross examination by Thomas' defense attorney, Kathleen Bogas.

It was unclear how Thomas reacted to the testimony; his back was to the courtroom audience.

She also fended off assertions that her job performance was lacking after Madison Square Garden attorney Ronald Green introduced a series of 2004-2005 e-mail exchanges by Browne Sanders and various managers at the Garden, including President Steve Mills.

``I want to stress that you are focused on more ridiculous issues than I can handle,'' Mills replied to Browne Sanders' e-mail asking about the order of the names in a media guide.

``Were you concerned that the relationship with Mr. Mills was not as good as it had been?'' Browne Sanders was asked. She replied that she was not.

Greene noted that, in an e-mail to a friend, Browne Sanders indicated that she would soon begin revising her resume. Opposing lawyers apparently are trying to show that Browne Sanders was in a power struggle, fearing her high-salaried position was slipping away from her.

Browne Sanders responded that she had received a ``glowing evaluation.''

After the jury of five women and three men left the courtroom Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Gerard Lynch expressed exasperation that the case was taking longer than non-celebrity trials and asked lawyers to speed things up.

``I saw one juror nodding off this morning,'' said the judge.

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