WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal jury began Wednesday hearing a $20 million lawsuit against Allen Iverson, who is accused of assaulting two men in a bar fight.
Marlin Godfrey and David Anthony Kittrell sued Iverson, saying the Denver Nuggets guard stood by as his entourage beat them and at one point even joined in by hitting someone with a bottle. They accuse Iverson and co-defendant Jason Kane of assault, infliction of emotional distress, negligence and conspiracy and are seeking $20 million in damages.
Defense lawyers say Godfrey was drunk and picked a fight and that neither Iverson nor Kane was actually involved in on July 20, 2005. They accuse Godfrey and Kittrell of targeting Iverson because of his wealth.
In his opening statement Wednesday, plaintiffs' lawyer Gregory L. Lattimer told jurors that when his clients declined to leave the VIP section of Washington's Eyebar, Kane and another bodyguard, delivered a ``viscous, doglike beating,'' kicking and stomping on Godfrey. He said Kittrell was later attacked as well.
``The defense is going to try to tell you this is just about a barroom brawl. But it's not,'' Lattimer said. ``What happened here is a result of a way of life. The responsibility for that way of life, the responsibility for these beatings'' belongs to Iverson.
Iverson was not in court Wednesday, and Lattimer repeatedly patted the empty chair at the defense table for emphasis as he talked about the former Georgetown star.
Iverson is expected in court next week to testify.
Iverson's lawyer, Alan C. Milstein, opted to save his opening statement for when the defense begins presenting its case, but Kane's lawyer, Billy Martin, delivered a response to Lattimer.
``What's this case really about? Greed,'' he said. ``They picked this fight and they lost the fight. But the fight was not with Jason Kane or with Allen Iverson.''
Martin said the fight started when Godfrey, a third-degree black belt in karate, sucker-punched Terrance Williams, a freelance bodyguard who sometimes works with Kane. He said Williams then fought back.
Martin said Williams was not working for Iverson and Kane that night and was at the bar on his own, a claim Lattimer disputes.
Martin denied that anyone associated with Iverson told Godfrey and Kittrell to leave. He said it was the Eyebar's owner who asked them to make room for the star because it was good for business.
``People come from miles around to hang out and party with a celebrity,'' Martin said.
A similar lawsuit against Iverson was filed last year over an alleged assault by his security team at a Hampton, Va., nightclub. That incident occurred less than two weeks before the one in Washington.
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