Race cited in NBA bar fight

SAM PAZZANO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

A racial epithet may have been the fuse that sparked the melee involving three former Milwaukee Bucks basketball players and an exotic dancer outside a downtown Toronto club two years ago, a court heard yesterday.

Boston Celtics' superstar Gary Payton, Sam Cassell of the Minnesota Timberwolves and free agent Jason Caffey were all charged in April 2003 after an altercation outside the For Your Eyes Only nightclub on King St. W.

In the first day of their trial on assault charges yesterday, lawyer Eddie Greenspan suggested that the exotic dancer's boyfriend, Adrian Cimpean, called Payton a racial name while he was sitting outside the club in a taxi and invited Payton to fight. Cimpean was then punched in the head, court heard.

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"Maybe this whole thing happened here because Cimpean may have called Payton a (racial slur) and that is why Payton is so angry at the time," Greenspan, representing Payton, suggested to the officer in charge of the case, Det.-Sgt. George Mullin.

"No, I never thought that at all," replied Mullin.

The veteran officer later said he had "no information" that Cimpean used a racial slur against Payton that night.

Only Cassell attended the the trial yesterday, but Payton is expected to be in court today. Caffey will not be attending, Greenspan said.

Crown attorney Darren Hogan is alleging Payton, 37, Cassell, 35, and Caffey, 32, committed an assault causing bodily harm against Cimpean.

Payton, who also faces common assault charges against dancer Vida Asante and another exotic dancer, Charmaine Thompson, has pleaded not guilty to all three charges. Cassell has pleaded not guilty to the main charge and a common assault charge against club doorman Craig Broda.


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