Jury selection in sexual harassment trial to begin Monday

NEW YORK -- Unless a last-minute settlement is reached, the trial in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit
against New York Knicks president of basketball operations and coach Isiah Thomas and Madison Square Garden is scheduled to begin Monday when jury selection commences at U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Newsday reported that despite the potential negatives of a trial -- chief among them the public airing of dirty laundry -- sources on both sides have indicated that a settlement is highly unlikely.

In January 2006, ex-Knicks senior vice president Anucha Browne Sanders filed suit against Thomas, the team's GM and coach, claiming the Hall of Famer subjected her to "demeaning and repulsive behavior," including unwanted sexual advances.

In the lawsuit, Browne Sanders claims she was fired "for telling the truth" while going through internal channels to stop the harassment. She has accused Thomas of telling her he was "very attracted" to her and "in love" with her and tried to kiss her. MSG officials responded that she was fired for failure to fulfill her responsibilities.

Browne Sanders, who served as vice president for marketing and business operations, is seeking reinstatement to her job and unspecified damages.

In court filings disputing the charges, Thomas denied harassing Browne Sanders and said he did nothing wrong. He said Browne Sanders' "inability to accept the changes that occurred under Thomas' leadership fueled her antipathy ... and are reflected by this meritless lawsuit," and further claimed many of the allegations lacked factual support or had been distorted.

In its own court filings, MSG said Browne Sanders was fired for legitimate business reasons.

In pretrial rulings earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Gerard E. Lynch, reversing a previous decision, granted Browne Sanders' motion to exclude as evidence the details of talks aimed at a proposed settlement of the case. Lynch ruled
that Thomas and MSG could not use Browne Sanders' 2006 offer to settle the lawsuit for about $6 million as part of their case.

Attorneys for MSG and Browne Sanders declined comment Wednesday on the pretrial rulings, Newsday reported.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.