Las Vegas casino guards counter sue NBA’s Charles Oakley over altercation

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

In this Jan. 20, 2011 photo, Charlotte Bobcats assistant coach Charles Oakley, right, talks with Eduardo Najera, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Charlotte, N.C.

A group of security officers countersued retired NBA "enforcer" Charles Oakley on Monday, charging he has assaulted Las Vegas casino workers at least three times since 2005 – but has repeatedly avoided arrest because of his celebrity VIP status.

The officers and the Aria hotel-casino were sued by Oakley on May 12 in Clark County District Court over a 2010 altercation, and on Monday the officers and the casino filed their first response to Oakley's lawsuit. The officers' counterclaim is part of that response.

Oakley's suit charged that while visiting Aria on the Las Vegas Strip in May 2010, the former power forward was injured by the officers after a verbal dispute with casino personnel escalated into the officers attacking him without cause.

Attorneys for MGM Resorts International’s Aria property at CityCenter and the security officers, in their response, denied allegations Oakley was subjected to an unprovoked "gang-style" beatdown by the officers.

Oakley has said he needs continual medical treatment because of the incident and the Charlotte Bobcats, where he is an assistant coach, last month hired another assistant in anticipation of Oakley not returning to the bench.

In Monday’s counterclaim, attorneys for the Aria security officers related a series of events dramatically different than what Oakley alleged in his lawsuit. Aria is not a plaintiff in the counterclaim.

Monday’s claim says Oakley was at the Liquid pool at Aria with friends including current Boston Celtics player Jermaine O'Neal when Oakley, who had several large alcoholic drinks, became agitated because it was near closing time and "he and his friends were not allowed to invite additional females into the pool."

A scuffle erupted with personnel of Aria and the Light Group, operator of the pool, and at one point a Light Group employee was thrown to the ground and his head struck a patio table, the claim says.

Oakley eventually headed back to his hotel room at Aria when he was encountered by Aria security personnel, who wanted to question him about the incident at the pool and a request by Light Group personnel that Oakley be detained for assault and battery.

After Oakley refused to stop, he pushed an Aria officer out of the way and "threatened bodily harm to other officers," the claim says.

Aria officers then worked to restrain him, and he kicked and punched them, bit two of them, elbowed two in the face, spat on one, used obscenities and "threatened to knock people out," the claim says, adding three of the officers were injured.

Oakley was handcuffed and detained, but, "as in past encounters, was not arrested because of his celebrity status," the claim says.

The security officers are seeking general and punitive damages that are unspecified, but that are at least $20,000.

The officers named in the counterclaim are Elijah Germany, Robert McCain, Avion Reed and Joseph Kenny.

Their attorneys noted that as an NBA player, Oakley was known as a "tough, physical player" and that "Oakley’s history is filled with physical play, resulting in flagrant fouls, ejections from games, fines and other punishments."

"Oakley has been involved in a number of altercations, fights and/or arrests upon individuals outside of his basketball career," the court filing said.

He has used his celebrity status to obtain VIP benefits "from various hotels and casinos, including Aria," the counterclaim says.

It goes on to say that Oakley "has a history of battering innocent bystanders" – including two employees at Bellagio, another MGM Resorts International property on the Las Vegas Strip.

On July 17, 2005, he punched Bellagio Security Supervisor Shawn Duran in the face, the claim says.

"Duran wanted to press charges, but was persuaded not to because of Oakley’s celebrity status," the claim says.

Then on April 9, 2006, he sent another Bellagio employee to the hospital with a 1/2-inch laceration above his right eye, the counterclaim says. This employee wasn’t named in the claim.

"Oakley had been playing craps and threw a handful of dice at a Bellagio employee," the filing says, adding a police report was filed.

"However, because of Oakley’s status as a high roller, the employee did not press charges against Oakley," the claim says.

As for the May 2010 incident, the employees charged that Oakley sued them and Aria "and Oakley released false and misleading information to the media to portray himself as a victim, when in reality, he was the vicious aggressor who provoked the incidents at issue."

Oakley was separately sued in Clark County District Court on Monday by Aria employee Jeff Marshall over the May 2010 incident.

Marshall, an audio-visual technician, was in the pool area working on speakers and electronic equipment and happened to have a camera around his neck, the lawsuit says.

Oakley screamed at Marshall, "Are you ___ taking pictures of me?" the suit says.

Oakley charged at Marshall, demanded he surrender the camera, backed him into a DJ booth and "assaulted and battered Marshall by ripping the camera from his neck and throwing the $2,500 camera into the swimming pool," ruining the camera, the lawsuit says.

That lawsuit says Marshall didn’t take any pictures during the incident and the assault by Oakley caused him emotional stress, pain and suffering.

That suit also seeks general and punitive damages that are unspecified but that are at least $20,000.

Aria, the officers and Marshall are represented in the litigation by Las Vegas attorney Martin Kravitz and associates with the Las Vegas law firm Kravitz, Schnitzer, Sloane & Johnson Chtd.

An attorney for Oakley with his law firm in Las Vegas – Kaempfer Crowell Renshaw Gronauer & Fiorentino – said Monday she couldn’t immediately comment on the counterclaim and the new lawsuit against Oakley.