It was easy to feel for Derrick Rose the basketball player in the immediate aftermath of his career-high 50 points for the Minnesota Timberwolves, especially considering the injuries that derailed a career once seemingly destined for the Hall of Fame after he became the youngest NBA MVP ever in 2011. You could get caught up in the emotions of Rose telling the Target Center crowd through tears how hard he’s worked to get back to this point. It’s a storybook basketball tale if it ends there.
Except, everyone isn’t happy for Derrick Rose, most notably his ex-girlfriend, who is appealing a federal civil trial jury’s 2016 decision to clear the three-time All-Star of all liability pertaining to allegations that he and two friends broke into her apartment and gang-raped her while she was unconscious in August 2013. That appeal will be heard by a Ninth Circuit court in California on Nov. 16.
This is where it becomes problematic to elevate the story of an injury-plagued former MVP who reclaimed his superstar talent for one night into, as prominent NBA voices LeBron James and Dwyane Wade said, “a superhero” saga deserving deification from kids and basketball fans the world over.
LeBron: "Any kid that’s going through anything … you can look at that performance by Derrick Rose … That’s why our game is so unbelievable … even when a superhero’s knocked down he’s still a superhero & Derrick Rose showed why he’s still a superhero"
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 1, 2018
Every Basketball fan in the world should feel good for DRose. Tonite was an example of never giving up on yourself and when others believe in you. Amazing things can happen. I’m smiling like i scored 50! Congrts to a good dude!
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) November 1, 2018
There are those who will argue Rose’s name was cleared in the October 2016 civil trial. We should note that Rose was not found to be not guilty. A criminal investigation into the gang-rape allegations — for which the statute of limitations ends in February 2019 — was open at the time of the civil trial, but the jury’s ruling reinforced how the already difficult task of finding a conviction in a rape trial might be more daunting in this case. A criminal investigation was made more complicated when the Los Angeles Police Department’s lead detective on the case, Nadine Hernandez, who reportedly believed a crime occurred, died of an alleged self-inflicted gunshot in the weeks after declaring the investigation still open. (Investigators reportedly found no connection between the case and Hernandez’s death.)
Rose was instead found not liable for the $21.5 million his accuser was seeking in damages from his alleged trespassing, sexual battery and battery, charges that took a jury of six women and two men less than four hours to clear him of at the end of a two-week civil trial — a ruling that remains in question for more than the simple fact that a Ninth Circuit court will hear her appeal in two weeks.
That determination was in doubt well before smiling jurors posed for pictures in the courtroom with Rose shortly after clearing his name, before the judge told him at trial’s end, “Best wishes, except when the Knicks play the Lakers,” and before the jury’s forewoman conceded, “I think most of us believe it’s possible there are pieces of her story that were true, but there just wasn’t any evidence.”
Rose said in a pretrial deposition that he did not know the meaning of consent, an admission that led his accuser’s lawyers to wonder how he obtained consent without comprehending it. Rose’s admission was exacerbated during the trial, when he said in response to a question about what their intentions were upon leaving a party at his house to visit her apartment, “We men. You can assume. Like we leaving to go over to someone’s house at [1 o’clock in the morning], there’s nothing to talk about.”
The plaintiff testified that she left the party at Rose’s L.A. rental home intoxicated and required assistance from a taxi driver to get into her apartment, where she vomited and passed out. She said she had brief bouts of consciousness during which she remembers Rose having intercourse with her before his friends, Ryan Allen and Randall Hampton, had sex with her while Rose watched. She said in her deposition that she awoke later with her dress pulled to her neck and lubrication on her legs.
Rose, Allen and Hampton all testified that their accuser let them into the apartment for consensual sex, despite Rose conceding that she had repeatedly denied his group sex requests in the past and his own expert toxicologist estimating her blood alcohol level reached 2.5 times the legal driving limit.
Before the trial, Rose’s attorneys argued that his accuser should be publicly identified in part because of sexually suggestive photos on her Instagram feed — an argument the judge readily dismissed. During the trial, Rose’s attorney’s asked after his accuser’s testimony, “Is she going to cry all afternoon?” — a question the judge rightfully dismissed — and unsuccessfully argued that her legal team’s late introduction of potentially damaging text messages constituted grounds for a mistrial. After the trial, Rose’s attorneys sought to recoup their client’s $70,000 in legal fees from his accuser.
In response, the plaintiff’s attorneys filed an appeal of the civil trial ruling almost immediately “on the grounds that damning testimony should have been excluded and other evidence should have been admitted at trial.” Her lawyers also asked the judge to rule against the $70,000 award, citing her “limited resources,” a deterrence for future litigants and an ex-prosecutor’s assertion that, “I’d probably have had a better chance prosecuting the President of the United States than an athlete.”
And why might a prosecutor believe convicting athletes is an exercise in futility? Because the emotions that poured from Rose on Wednesday — when he told reporters, “Everything happens for a reason” — rang truer to the world at large than the tears his rape accuser shed on the witness stand.
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