Hoop trio cleared of assault

SAM PAZZANO -- Sun media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Three NBA players accused of beating a male stripper and his exotic dancer wife were exonerated yesterday after a judge concluded the couple's evidence was riddled with contradictions.

Justice William Bassel dismissed all charges against former Milwaukee Bucks stars Gary Payton, 38, Sam Cassell, 36, and Jason Caffey, 33, alleging they attacked Adrian Cimpean and caused him bodily harm on April 11, 2003, outside For Your Eyes Only nightclub on King St. W. Bassel also cleared Payton of assaulting Cimpean's wife, Vida Asante.

Asante had just ended a shift as a stripper and Cimpean was escorting her and another dancer, with whom Payton had been socializing, when Payton rudely called out to the other stripper.

The judge rejected the couple's testimony, although he criticized Payton for his rude language and conduct.

"Cimpean grossly exaggerated injuries and added injuries many months (including hearing loss) after the fact ... there were outright falsehoods and motive to embellish (their testimony)," Bassel said of the couple's account.

"According to the alleged victim in this case (Cimpean), he suffered a near-death experience that night with Payton, Cassell and Caffey and the judge said, 'I'm sorry, you did not,'" the players' lawyer Eddie Greenspan said later.

But the judge said Payton, who hoped the other stripper would accompany him back to his hotel room, called the woman a "whore," triggering the confrontation.

The couple launched a suit against the players. Cimpean testified he hasn't been able to work as a stripper since.


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