NEW YORK (AP) - This is a courtroom where Lenny Bruce would feel at home.
Twenty-three floors above Manhattan, inside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan federal courthouse, the legal niceties are few and the obscenities plentiful in the sexual harassment trial of New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas.
Four-letter words fly like three-point shots, along with a steady flow of gender slurs and crude sexual come-ons - all testimony or evidence in the $10 million lawsuit filed by Anucha Browne Sanders, a former Knicks vice president of marketing and business operations.
Thomas, along with star Knicks guard Stephon Marbury, is accused of describing Browne Sanders as a ``bitch.'' The one-time NBA star and member of the Hall of Fame also used the f-word on more than once in berating Browne Sanders, she testified during the plaintiff's case.
As witness after witness took the stand in the trial's first two weeks, none of the expletives was deleted. One Madison Square Garden public relations executive was asked if he'd ever heard Thomas use one particularly rude 12-letter expression. (The answer was yes.)
It's all taking place around the corner from where doomed comedian Bruce was convicted on obscenity charges 33 years ago for his Cafe Au Go Go nightclub act. Bruce's performance was no worse than much of what's on the record in U.S. District Court Judge Gerard E. Lynch's courtroom.
Veteran defense attorney Ron Kuby said the coarse discourse was unusual for a court proceeding.
``Generally speaking, crude and vulgar language is not a part of a sexual harassment case,'' Kuby said, pointing out that many harassment cases involve physical, not verbal, incidents. ``If you removed the f-word and the b-word, this trial would be cut in half.''
Particularly shocking were internal Madison Square Garden e-mails containing allegations that Marbury's cousin was soliciting sex from his co-workers in the crudest possible language. Hassan Gonsalves asked some women directly for oral sex, and sent vulgar text messages to others, according to the plaintiff.
Gonsalves was hired after Marbury intervened with MSG chairman James Dolan, but he was later fired for sexual harassment. The suit by Browne Sanders named Thomas, Dolan and Madison Square Garden.
Browne Sanders, the married mother of three, alleged that Thomas berated her with vulgar and inappropriate language after he was hired in December 2003. Later, she charged, the coach's attitude went from anger to ardor as he made unwanted sexual advances.
Thomas, who has yet to testify in the case, has denied all the allegations. The first defense witness, MSG Sports president and chief executive Steve Mills, testified that none of Browne Sanders' charges was true, but not before he was asked about Thomas' language.
Mills flatly said he'd never heard the ex-Detroit Pistons star used the word the b-word in public or in private conversations.
A former Knicks executive, Jeffrey Nix, testified about conversations where Browne Sanders recounted Thomas' alleged offensive remarks. At one meeting, Nix said, Browne Sanders remembered Thomas shouting, ``What are your job responsibilities, you ... ho?'' with an obscenity added for emphasis.
No one was more offended by such talk than Faye Brown, who worked as Browne Sanders' administrative assistant for three years. When called as a witness, Brown tiptoed around the language, even as the attorneys plunged right into it.
Asked if she ever heard Browne Sanders use a specific common obscenity at work, Brown answered no - and then apologized. She refused to utter a single obscenity; on occasion, she spelled out the offensive terms.
Even there, her language never crossed the line. She recounted an instance where Browne Sanders used a fairly innocuous curse word. And then spelled it ``D-A-M.''
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