NBA trio cleared of assault in Toronto strip club fight

TORONTO -- Gary Payton, Sam Cassell and
Jason Caffey were
cleared of assaulting a male exotic dancer and his stripper fiance
during a confrontation outside a downtown Toronto strip club in

Justice William Bassel ruled Monday that although Payton likely
sparked a dispute with foul language and taunts, he is "not on
trial for his vulgar ... and offensive conduct."

The 39-year-old Payton, now with the Miami Heat, was playing for
the Milwaukee Bucks with Cassell and Caffey at the time of the
alleged assault.

Adrian Cimpean alleged Payton started hitting him after he
objected to the athlete insulting his fiance, Vida Asante, as the
couple left the club on April 11, 2003.

In July 2005, Cimpean, testified that Cassell and Caffey joined
in the assault, that he was kicked in the face and rendered
unconscious and left with back pain, brain damage, blurred vision
and diminished hearing.

Police also charged Payton with assaulting Asante and another
female stripper, while Cassell was accused of assaulting a club

But the judge said Monday the couple's testimony was riddled
with exaggerations and inconsistencies.

None of the three athletes were present Monday.

Cassell is now with the Los Angeles Clippers and Caffey is