Thursday, June 16, 2011
Shaquille O'Neal questioned in attack
LOS ANGELES -- Members of a Los Angeles street gang are facing charges in the 2008 beating of a man who claimed he had a sex tape of Shaquille O'Neal and that the retired NBA star was behind the attack.
Sheriff's department records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times showed investigators probed allegations that O'Neal was connected to the attack, but O'Neal denied any involvement and has not been charged, the newspaper reported Wednesday. Also, O'Neal is not named in the criminal complaint.
Robert Ross reported being beaten in 2008 but details of the case only came to light publicly this week in a preliminary hearing in which Ross testified against seven members of the Main Street Crips facing kidnapping, robbery and assault charges.
According to the sheriff's report, Ross told investigators he was kidnapped at gunpoint by Main Street Crips gang members in West Hollywood in February 2008 and taken to the home of the gang's alleged leader, Ladell Rowles. He said the gang members beat him, stole $15,000 in cash and some jewelry.
Ross said Rowles demanded the purported videotape of O'Neal having sex with a woman other than his wife and $100,000, according to the sheriff's investigative report.
Ross told investigators in 2008 that he believed O'Neal was behind the attack because of a business deal gone bad and because O'Neal believed he had the tape, the Times reported. Ross later told police he was "bluffing" about the tape.
Detectives found phone records showing a "flurry of calls" between Rowles and O'Neal's business partner Mark Stevens around the time of the February 2008 incident, the sheriff's report said.
O'Neal and Stevens both denied any involvement in the attack when interviewed by sheriff's investigators in 2008, the Times said.
Prosecutors said they have no evidence that a sex tape exists.
In a July 2009 letter asking for leniency in Ross' sentencing for unrelated federal drug and firearm charges, a sheriff's captain wrote that Ross was cooperating with law enforcement as a victim and witness in an incident that may implicate a "celebrity," the Times reported.
Attorney Nicholas Tonsich, who represented O'Neal and Stevens, did not immediately respond to an Associated Press call for comment.
O'Neal retired this month after 19 seasons, eight of them with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ross is expected to resume his testimony when the preliminary hearing continues in July.