A mere three days after Sacramento Kings Demarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes were allegedly involved in a scuffle at Avenue Nightclub in New York City, yesterday New York residents Jasmine Besiso and Myrone Powell filed a civil federal lawsuit accusing the Cousins and Barnes of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. No criminal charges have been filed.
The allegations, particularly against Barnes, are alarming. The suit claims that after a brief commotion in the VIP area of Avenue around 3 AM on December 5th (the Kings played the Knicks earlier in the evening), Barnes approached Besiso, grabbed her neck, and began chocking her. While this was happening, Powell allegedly saw what Barnes was doing and attempted to come to Besiso’s aid, but was intercepted by a Cousin’s punch. At this point, the allegations get really ugly:
[UPDATE: Plaintiffs’ lawyer told the NY Daily News that Barnes was choking a second woman in the nightclub before Besiso.]
Then, according to the lawsuit, Barnes joined Cousins and the two took Powell to the ground, punched and kicked him in the head, torso, and legs. Besiso and Powell claim this video, released by TMZ, reflects Cousins and Barnes boasting about the incident:
The lawsuit claims that Cousins and Barnes “fled the scene” prior to the police arriving.
The extent of Plaintiffs’ injuries is unclear, however TMZ released these pictures of Powell’s face today:
Matt Barnes Accuser — I've Got Injury Pics Too … You Obliterated My Face (Photos) https://t.co/n34vploVQk
— TMZ Sports (@TMZ_Sports) December 8, 2016
It is unclear what, if any, evidence that Plaintiffs have to support their allegations. Although the scuffle was captured on the nightclub’s surveillance camera, there are mixed reports on what the video shows. A.J. Perez of USA Today reported that “[f]ootage of the incident obtained by investigators appears to show Barnes was the assailant, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who is not authorized to speak publicly because the investigation is ongoing.” However, today CBS Sacramento reported the NYPD is “not able to glean any pertinent information from them because of low lighting.”
The lawsuit does not cite to any eye witnesses that will corroborate Plaintiffs’ claims. CBS Sacramento reports that witnesses stated:
- The altercation was physically initiated by a woman who has since filed a lawsuit against the two NBA players.
- Cousins was at the other side of the nightclub when the altercation began.
- Barnes was knocked to the ground by multiple assailants.
- Club security escorted the two NBA players out of the building.
Barnes had this to say:
Expect a strong denial from Barnes and Cousins when they respond to the allegations in a court filing due 20 days after they are officially served. Attorney Alex Spiro, who also represents Hawks Thabo Sefolosha in his civil lawsuit against the NYPD, represents both Kings players and told ESPN that “[w]e do not believe a crime was committed and are hopeful no [criminal] charges will be pressed.”
Barnes and Cousins will likely assert that they acted in self-defense based on eye-witness accounts that Besiso attacked Barnes first. Barnes has scratches on his neck, and is claiming that he is the victim. The quick filing of the lawsuit, as well as today’s press conference held by Plaintiffs’ lawyers, may be an attempt to keep this story in the news cycle with the hopes of a quick settlement.
Barring settlement (which could happen at any time through trial) Spiro will likely file numerous requests for the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that Plaintiffs lack factual support for their allegations. However, because there is a conflicting set of facts based on party and witness testimony, there is a good chance that this case could go to trial (similar to what we say in the recent Derrick Rose civil case). Plaintiffs requested a jury trial, and in the absence of clear video showing Barnes and Cousins as the aggressors, the trial will likely turn into a “he said she said” back and forth with each side parading witnesses to the stand to support their side of the story.
Here is the full lawsuit: