Former NBA center Dwight Howard has denied allegations of sexual assault made by a man at his Georgia residence in 2021. The former NBA All-Star, who currently plays in Taiwan, claims that the encounter in question was consensual. According to Howard's attorney, Justin Bailey, the private nature of the encounter was exploited for profit, and he looks forward to presenting the truth in a court of law.
The accuser, Stephen Harper, alleges that he was sexually assaulted by Howard in July 2021 after the two had met in person following conversations over Instagram direct messenger. Harper's attorney, Olga Izmaylova, insists that her client did not consent to the alleged actions.
Bailey, however, asserts that Howard is the target of an extortion attempt. He claims that Howard blocked Harper on social media, after which he was given the choice to pay to protect his reputation or risk a fabricated story being made public. Despite his status as a celebrity and being an easy target, Howard has chosen to trust in the justice system and will rely on future court filings to speak for themselves.
In support of his claims, Harper has presented screenshots of Instagram exchanges with Howard as well as an Uber receipt showing transportation to the NBA star's residence on the night in question. Harper reported the incident to the police in July 2022, but no charges were filed.
Given Georgia's two-year statute of limitations for such civil lawsuits, Harper's attorney believes there are extenuating circumstances that warrant the delay. They had conducted independent investigations, while Harper had personal factors to consider, leading to the decision to proceed with the lawsuit at this time.
Dwight Howard, now 37 years old, has been out of the NBA since 2022. While he is celebrated for his title-winning season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, he is best known for his time with the Orlando Magic, where he earned three NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors. Howard, a devoutly religious individual, has frequently spoken about his faith since entering the NBA in 2004. Most recently, he played for the Taoyuan Leopards in Taiwan and was recognized as the Most Valuable Import at the end of the 2023 season.