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By David K. Li
The Sacramento Kings and NBA announced Thursday they’ve launched a joint probe of the team’s newly hired head coach, Luke Walton, who’s being sued over an alleged sexual assault.
The Kings said they tapped two attorneys from a Sacramento law firm to handle their half of the probe, while the NBA said its assistant general counsel — who is a former federal prosecutor — will lead the league’s share of the investigation.
All three lawyers heading the probe are women — Sue Ann Van Dermyden, founding partner of Sacramento law firm Van Dermyden Maddux, senior associate Jennifer Doughty, and Elizabeth Maringer, an NBA assistant general counsel and former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“The Kings and the NBA take these allegations very seriously and will collaborate to conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” according to a statement by the Kings.
The 39-year-old son of NBA Hall of Fame center Bill Walton, was hired to lead the Kings on April 14. Walton had been head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers for the past three seasons, before he was let go.
A lawsuit by Kelli Tennant, a former on-air personality for Spectrum SportsNet LA in Southern California, claims Walton pinned her on the bed of his Santa Monica hotel room in 2014 after she dropped off a book she’d written for student-athletes.
Walton’s legal team has totally rejected Tennant’s claims.
“The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom,” Walton’s lawyer Mark Baute has said.
Walton, who Tennant had known for years and considered a “trusted mentor and colleague,” had written the book’s forward, according to Tennant’s lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court.
At the time of the alleged attack, Walton was in the first of two seasons as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, according to the lawsuit.
“Out of nowhere he got on top of me and pinned me down to the bed and held my arms down with all of his weight while he kissed my neck and my face and my chest,” Tennant told reporters this week. “I thought that he was going to rape me.”
Tennant said she was able to get away from Walton and has hesitated for years on whether or not to share her story publicly.
“Coming forward is a scary thing and I have spent years now dealing with this, trying to forget about it, hoping I could push it to the side and bury it,” she said.