Georgia police confirmed Tuesday that they have re-opened an investigation related to allegations that Dwight Howard committed felony child abuse, following a pair of reports raising questions about the Houston Rockets center physically disciplining his 6-year-old son, Braylon.
TMZ reported Sunday that the Florida Department of Children and Families had investigated Howard, 28, following a complaint filed in August by the boy's mother, Royce Reed. Reed reportedly alleged that Howard had whipped their son with a belt, but a DCF spokesperson told TMZ the investigation was "being closed with no substantiated findings of physical injuries."
The following day, however, TMZ reported that DCF documents summarizing the findings of the doctor who examined Braylon indicated injuries that were consistent with a "history given by Braylon of being struck with a belt numerous times by his father," consistent with "being struck with the buckle end of the belt ... with excessive force," and consistent with "a medical diagnosis of physical abuse."
While the allegations were reported in Florida, the alleged abuse took place in Cobb County, Ga., leading Florida officials to inform Georgia authorities and prompt the opening of an investigation, according to Ryan Parker of the Los Angeles Times:
A case against the former [Los Angeles] Lakers center, who is now with the Houston Rockets, was originally opened Oct. 1, but was set aside when leads ran out, said Sgt. Dana Pierce, a spokesman for Cobb County, Georgia police.
But in the last 48 hours, police received information or evidence that prompted them to reopen the case, Pierce said.
“We will methodically process this case,” Pierce said.
During the Florida civil case on the matter, Howard reportedly admitted to disciplining his son "in an appropriate manner when necessary" — "appropriate" in the context of similar discipline he received growing up and did not believe to be wrong — but "never caused marks, bruises, welts or injuries requiring medical treatment," according to court documents cited by Reuters.
The decision to re-open the investigation into allegations that Howard abused his child came on the same day that the NFL suspended Adrian Peterson for the remainder of the 2014 football season after being brought up on felony charges in Texas for allegedly committing reckless or negligent injury to a child, stemming from injuries Peterson's 4-year-old son sustained when the Minnesota Vikings running back Peterson disciplined him with a switch.
Howard has not been arrested or charged with any crime. Georgia authorities are merely re-opening their investigation in light of new information.
Howard's attorney, David Oscar Markus, issued a statement addressing the allegations and defending his client, according to ESPN.com:
"The Florida Department of Children and Families thoroughly examined all of the evidence and determined that the claims of child abuse were not substantiated. The case was closed in September.
"Royce Reed is now shopping her baseless allegations to authorities in Georgia after the Florida DCF case was closed. Even though the allegations have already been found to have no merit, when a complaint about the welfare of a child is made to law enforcement, an investigation is commenced. We are confident the Georgia authorities will reach the same conclusion as the Florida authorities. The truth is on our side."
An NBA spokesperson told ESPN.com Tuesday that the league is "aware of the allegations concerning Dwight Howard and [is] in the process of independently gathering the facts."
As Georgia authorities and NBA officials continue to gather information, Howard remains with the Rockets, who next play against his former team, the Lakers, in Houston on Wednesday night. The eight-time All-Star is averaging 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 33.5 minutes per game for the Rockets, who have the NBA's second-best record at 9-2.
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