Monday, September 24, 2007
Updated: September 26, 6:59 PM ET
Anucha v. Isiah: Five pressing questions
By Chris Sheridan
NEW YORK -- The center of the basketball universe Monday was the U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan, where in the 23rd-floor courtroom of Judge Gerard Lynch a parade of Madison Square Garden vice presidents came to the defense of Isiah Thomas in testimony regarding Anucha Browne Sanders' sexual harassment lawsuit.
As we proceed with what appears to be the final week of the trial, here are five questions and answers about Sanders v. Madison Square Garden, LP:
1. When are we going to get a verdict?
There's a good chance Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan will take the witness stand in his own defense Tuesday, with Thomas taking the oath and the stand Wednesday. That would likely mean closing arguments would come Thursday, and then it would go to the jury. And after getting a firsthand look at the members of the jury (six jurors and one alternate), it appears they're pretty sick of the tedium and would take every opportunity to close this chapter of their lives without having to run the risk of being sequestered over the weekend. In other words, it's possible they could come back with a verdict by Friday evening if they get the case Thursday night or Friday morning.
2. What's the latest from the courtroom?
The juiciest testimony from Monday was former Knicks intern Kathleen Decker acknowledging she had sex with Stephon Marbury after celebrating her birthday with three female co-workers at a suburban strip club. Decker also acknowledged she was having an "outside the office" relationship with Marbury's cousin, Hassan Gonsalves, at the time. Gonsalves was one of two Knicks employees (the other employee was Dolan's future son-in-law) who were fired following sexual harassment allegations after Browne Sanders had been forced to hire them for her marketing department. Bill Goldstein, the Garden's vice president of season ticket sales, testified Monday that Browne Sanders showed him the duo's "unprofessional" résumés and commented "Do you believe I have to hire these thugs?"
3. Wow. What else is there?
Well, Goldstein was preceded to the witness stand by John Cudmore, the Garden's vice president of finance, who testified that Browne Sanders used some pretty strong language herself. We'll make liberal use of dashes here to get across what she is alleged to have called Garden executives, including "f---ing bitch," "f---ing buffoon" and "f---ing a------."
4. So, who seems to be winning this case?
That answer is truly known only by the jury, but a couple of things to keep in mind: Judge Lynch indicated he felt the plaintiffs had presented a weak case against Thomas, who is actually in some respects a co-defendant in this case and sits with his lawyers at a different table from the Garden and the Garden's lawyers. Thomas is being sued both individually and as a part of a separate complaint against the Garden. But it was a good day Monday for the Garden, which called more than a half-dozen of its top- and medium-level executives to the stand, where each of them refuted portions of Browne Sanders' testimony from last week regarding her recollections of key events and her own use of foul language in the office.
5. What will the ramifications be if the Knicks lose this case?
That's a gray area, since this is a civil trial, not a criminal trial. There is precedent in many sports for commissioners suspending and/or penalizing owners and players who have broken the law, but this one really might be a judgment call for NBA commissioner David Stern. Stern is undoubtedly unhappy with the grief this is causing his league, but would be overstepping his bounds if he were to ask Dolan to settle a case that Dolan obviously feels will be a slam dunk victory when it's over.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.