Matt Barnes and DeMarcus Cousins have been named in a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court by two people who claim the Sacramento Kings players assaulted them in a New York nightclub early Monday.
TMZ reported Wednesday that Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell had filed suit against Barnes and Cousins, and Daniel Werly of sports law blog The White Bronco published the court documents on Wednesday evening. The New York Police Department is investigating the incident, but no criminal charges have yet been filed.
According to the suit, filed Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Besiso and Powell accuse Barnes and Cousins of committing assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They’re suing for compensatory damages and punitive damages of more than $75,000 stemming from the altercation.
In the filing, Besiso and Powell claim that a commotion involving the players and others flared up around 3 a.m. Monday morning in the VIP area of Avenue, a nightclub in the Chelsea section of Manhattan where Barnes and Cousins were hanging out after Sacramento’s Sunday night loss to the New York Knicks. Shortly thereafter, Barnes “intentionally approached” Besiso “in a harmful and offensive manner” before grabbing her by the neck and choking her in an unprovoked attack.
They allege that Powell then came to Besiso’s aid, at which point Cousins entered the fray and punched Powell in the face, before Barnes “then released his grip on Plaintiff JASMINE BESISO’s neck and intentionally elbowed her in the face knocking her unconscious.” After that, according to the filing, Barnes and Cousins turned their attention to Powell, taking him to the ground and proceeding “to intentionally punch and kick Plaintiff POWELL in the head, torso and lower body.”
The players then left the club before New York Police Department officers arrived at the scene to respond to reports of assault and battery. Besiso and Powell were later treated for injuries stemming from the incident at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
As our Ben Rohrbach relayed Monday, TMZ published video after the alleged altercation showing Barnes and Cousins outside Avenue. Cousins can be seen holding and shaking his right hand, saying, “F***, man, I done f***ed my s*** up,” before adding, “The n**** was trying to choke Matt; I hit the s*** out this n****.”
A representative for Barnes told TMZ that he was defending himself — and Cousins then came to his defense — when an exchange with another group of VIP clubgoers turned violent. More on their side of the story:
Barnes was having a good time at Avenue Nightclub with his teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, when he went to sit at his VIP booth and accidentally “butt bumped” a woman who was at the next booth over.
Barnes claims the woman reacted by slapping him in the face, hard — and that’s when all hell broke loose.
Barnes claims the woman’s crew — which included several men — jumped in and began to get violent. Barnes was knocked to the ground in the melee and one of the men began to choke him.
We’re told Barnes got physical in an effort to protect himself. Cousins also jumped in to defend Barnes. In footage shot moments after the fight, Cousins references Barnes getting choked.
A.J. Perez of USA TODAY reported Monday that “footage of the incident obtained by investigators appears to show Barnes was the assailant, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who is not authorized to speak publicly because the investigation is ongoing.” Sacramento CBS affiliate KHTK reported Wednesday, however, that while the NYPD had pulled security camera videos from Avenue covering the evening in question, investigators have “not able to glean any pertinent information from them because of low lighting,” and cites “witnesses present” who claim Besiso initiated the physical altercation, Cousins was “at the other side of the nightclub” when things jumped off, and Barnes “was knocked to the ground by multiple assailants.”
Barnes and Cousins earlier this week hired attorney Alex Spiro to represent them in the matter. Last year, Spiro represented Atlanta Hawks swingman Thabo Sefolosha in his fight against charges of obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest stemming from an altercation with New York police officers following the stabbing of then-Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland outside the NYC nightclub 1OAK in April 2015. Spiro and Sefolosha won that fight, earning acquittal on all charges, and setting the stage for a $50 million countersuit against the NYPD and the city of New York for false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment.
Spiro said Monday that Barnes, who is wanted for questioning by the NYPD, would cooperate with authorities, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. Barnes’ only public comments on the matter have come via Instagram:
A photo posted by matt_barnes9 (@matt_barnes9) on Dec 5, 2016 at 10:43am PST
There’s always two sides to a story. The side the media consistently tries to paint of me … And what actually happened! Don’t believe everything you read.”
Barnes has been involved in a number of off-court issues over the years. In September 2010, two months signing a two-year, $3.67 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, Barnes was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Then-fiancee/later estranged wife Gloria Govan disputed the booking at the time, and Barnes was ultimately not charged in connection with that incident.
A 2012 arrest for allegedly threatening a police officer was pleaded down to a misdemeanor. In October 2015, he was famously involved in an alleged physical altercation with former teammate Derek Fisher, when the 35-year-old veteran reportedly drove 95 miles to confront the then-Knicks coach during Fisher’s visit with Govan and the separated couple’s children. He did not face criminal charges in that matter.
“We have clear standards of conduct and behavior expected of the entire Kings organization – on and off the court,” the Kings said in a team statement issued Monday afternoon. “We are working with all parties involved to gather information in order to take any appropriate next steps.”
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