Attorneys for Knicks owner James Dolan told a Federal Judge Monday that Dolan plans to file a motion to dismiss a defamation suit brought by former Knicks forward Charles Oakley.
In the three page letter to the court, Dolan's attorneys accuse Oakley of having, "a long, documented history of altercations with law enforcement and security personnel" and called the February 8, 2017 incident at MSG, where Oakley clashed with MSG guards and was hauled out of the Garden screaming during a Clippers game, just the latest example of his "recidivist behavior."
Comparing him to a repeat offender, Dolan's attorneys directed the court to another lawsuit filed in 2011 between Oakley and the Aria Resort and Casino which details, "prior incidents in which Oakley cursed, punched, kicked, and bit security guards trying to restrain him and threw a bystander’s camera into a hotel pool; punched a guard in the face; and sent a hotel employee to the hospital by throwing dice at his face."
Dolan's team also pointed out two news articles, one USA Today article from June 20, 2016 which recounted allegations of Oakley threatening other NBA security guards, titled, "Charles Oakley To Security Outside Cavaliers Locker Room: "Touch Me, Y'all See What Happens" and another NY Daily News article published in Dec. 18, 2007 describing Oakley "Busted for DUI," a tactic likely employed to paint the former Knick as a man with a history of explosive and confrontational episodes.
(Let's just hope Dolan doesn't call Charles Barkley to the stand and whip out game footage from 1996.)
In a bizarre move, Dolan's attorneys treated a simple letter to the Court requesting a pre-trial conference like a factual complaint and began rehashing the details of the February 8th incident. The letter also provides a sneak peak of the evidence Dolan plans to present at trial if the case proceeds. Things could get quite nasty.
In the latest court filing, which marks Dolan's first official legal response to Oakley's defamation suit, Dolan's attorney says, "minutes after taking his seat, near children, Oakley began shouting obscenities at a group of MSG security guards, calling them names like “motherf***ers” and “rat bast*rd,” as witnesses will attest."
Dolan's attorneys go on to allege that when concerned guards civilly asked Oakley to leave the Garden, "Oakley refused and became violent, shoving one of the guards in the face and another in the chest."
Not long after he was confronted by MSG guards, fans watched the disturbing public display unfold as the legendary Knick, who exchanged shoves with security, was physically dragged out of the arena and later handcuffed by NYPD officers.
In his letter to the Court, Dolan's side claims Oakley began "cursing and hurling homophobic slurs at the guards and officers, calling them “motherf***ers” and “fa**ots,” and shouting words to the effect of “all you whites over there get your story straight,” “why don’t you have some brothers over there with you,” and “f*** all you white boys.”
Oakley was later arrested and charged with third-degree assault, aggravated harassment, and other crimes. The Knicks later released a statement accusing Oakley of "highly inappropriate and completely abusive" behavior, banned him from the Garden and said they hope he "gets some help soon."
Dolan took to the radio waves just two days later and accused Oakley of "having a problem," on an ESPN show, saying it "may be a problem with alcohol" and also insinuating that Oakley had an anger problem. In the past, Dolan has publicly discussed his own struggles with alcoholism which made the comments somewhat ironic.
Months later the power forward struck a plea deal, agreeing to stay away from the Garden for a year and charges would be dismissed.
The Dolan attorney letter goes on to say, "despite his deplorable behavior and his criminal plea, Oakley cynically sued MSG shortly thereafter."
Oakley's defamation suit, which was filed back in September, seeks unspecified damages from the Knicks owner and accuses Dolan and MSG & its personnel of defaming Oakley by saying he was “subject[ing] other individuals to abusive conduct,” “committ[ing] assault,” and “being an alcoholic"
Oakley's lawsuit also accuses Dolan and the MSG Company of false imprisonment, abuse of process & assault & battery pertaining to his detention and subsequent arrest. In an unusual legal maneuver Oakley threw in a claim for denial of public accommodation (accusing Dolan of discriminating against him based upon the perception that Oakley is an "alcoholic", which is a disability, even though Oakley denies that he is actually an alcoholic).
Dolan's attorneys told the Judge they plan to strike down these claims with counterarguments.
To succeed on his defamation claim, Oakley must prove that Dolan maliciously broadcast or published false factual statements about him. But Dolan's attorneys claim that Dolan's statements were just "opinions," italicizing qualifying language Dolan used to preface the statements, “To me, Charles has got a problem.”; “He may have a problem with alcohol.” (emphases added)). It should be noted that Dolan showed up to his ESPN interview where he made the above comments with a large binder marked, "Preparation."
Regarding Oakley's false imprisonment accusations, Dolan's team says the claim should fail because "Oakley was detained and arrested by NYPD officers who had probable cause to confine him based on their direct observations of his unlawful conduct at the Game, and he was in fact charged with several crimes stemming from the arrest."
Dolan's attorneys claim Oakley's assault and battery claims should also fail because "Oakley’s actions necessitated his physical removal from the Game by guards and NYPD officers after Oakley refused to voluntarily comply with a request to leave the arena."
Ticket holders may be asked to leave or even be removed from certain events if they pose a risk of harm to the public or are disrupting the festivities, as per the terms of most tickets which are a revocable license to be on the premises.
Regarding Oakley's unusual disability claim, despite claiming he doesn't have a disability, Dolan's side says Oakley was not removed from the Garden because he perceived him to be an alcoholic but rather "Oakley was escorted out of MSG because of his disruptive conduct."
Finally Dolan's attorneys say the suit should be tossed because there's no evidence that Oakley suffered financial harm from the incident. Oakley's lawyers are expected to answer this latest filing expeditiously.
Meanwhile, Dolan is represented by Randy Mastro, a partner at the powerhouse law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. In his bio, he says his peers say that going against him in court is "like wrestling an alligator." Lucky for "Oak" he's no stranger to a court challenge that involves swinging elbows.