Exclusive: Dolan’s Attorneys Want Judge to Sanction Knicks Great Charles Oakley For Refusing to Give Up Court Fight.
Attorneys for Knicks owner James Dolan told a District Judge Monday they want a judicial conference as they plan to file a motion to seek sanctions against former Knicks legend Charles Oakley and his lead attorney Douglas Wigdor for continuing to pursue his lawsuit.
The aggressive move comes as Oakley is appealing an order from the Judge that dismissed his remaining assault and battery claims against Dolan and MSG. Oakley claims security guards used unreasonable force to eject him from the Garden during a Knicks vs. Clippers game back in February of 2017.
The violent altercation stunned fans at the Garden as the power forward was forcibly removed by at least six security guards and thrown to the ground several times, after shoving guards off of him. The orders to remove him allegedly came from Dolan.
The case has been ongoing for more than four years and now Dolan and his attorneys want Oakley sanctioned because he won’t give up the fight.
“While Oakley’s few remaining claims have now been dismissed, he and his counsel have pursued—and continue to pursue—baseless allegations that they knew from the outset were false, but which furthered their smear campaign. Indeed, as this Court earlier observed, ‘[f]rom its inception, this case has had the feel of a public relations campaign.’ Now, this Court has dismissed Oakley’s remaining assault and battery claims, finding them so “blatantly contradicted by the video record that no reasonable jury could believe them.”
In fact, a New York Appellate Court found in favor of Oakley last year, after the District Judge dismissed his claims against Dolan for false imprisonment, defamation and assault and battery. The three Judge panel reinstated the assault and battery claims and wrote that a jury should decide whether an unreasonable amount of force was used by guards against the Knicks legend.
In an odd twist, the District Judge again dismissed those assault and battery claims by granting Dolan a win on summary judgment earlier this month, despite the Appellate Court saying a Jury should decide them. Now Oak is headed back to the Appellate panel to try to win back his day in court and have the Judge’s latest decision reversed.
The entire encounter was caught on video. We have the video and a breakdown of what happened HERE.
In sum, it shows guards repeatedly placing their hands on Oakley as they instruct him to leave. Oakley keeps his hands up and tries to return to his seat before falling to the ground and that’s when the altercation escalates and gets ugly.
Dolan’s attorneys wrote this morning to the Judge saying, that over “the past four years, Oakley and his counsel had available to them dispositive video evidence conclusively rebut[ting] Oakley’s version of events including all of the relevant videos publicly filed with this Court in March 2018…And this Court even admonished them that the pursuit of “patently false” allegations “contradicted by video” “would potentially be a basis for sanctions.” Yet Oakley and his counsel continue to burden Defendants and the federal judiciary by pursuing this frivolous, vexatious litigation. Such an abuse warrants sanctions.”
Dolan’s attorneys go on to claim that Oakley “refused repeated requests by MSG security guards to leave, attacked and struck the MSG security guards, shouted profanities and assaulted other MSG security guards, and ultimately had to be forcibly removed from the arena by MSG security and uniformed NYPD officers (at least one of whom was present for all of the above-described conduct). Oakley and his attorneys then attempted to shift the blame to Defendants by filing a baseless lawsuit that falsely accused Defendants of, inter alia, assaulting, battering, falsely imprisoning, defaming, and discriminating against Oakley.”
Oakley’s version of events differed drastically from Dolan’s as his attorneys painted him as a peaceful spectator who was descended upon by multiple security guards and manhandled to the ground as he tried to find out why he was being asked to leave. Oakley claimed he was treated like a “common criminal” and that Dolan ordered MSG security guards to “humiliate” Oakley by “roughly grabb[ing]” him, “push[ing] him to the ground” twice, and “dragg[ing]” him out of MSG, unprovoked.
Oakley and his counsel also claimed that Oakley had tried to defuse the situation by explaining to security personnel that he had “done nothing wrong,” but security guards escalated the confrontation by “physically grabbing him and forcibly compelling him to leave, and that Oakley acted in “self defense” when he shoved the security guards off of him.
Dolan’s attorneys called Oakley’s version of events “a false narrative” and say the allegations are “flatly contradicted by readily available video evidence.”
Now they are accusing Oakley of filing “false pleadings” over the course of more than four years. In Monday’s letter, Dolan’s attorneys express their outrage to the District Court Judge that Oakley was able to persuade the Second Circuit to reverse the dismissal of the Judge’s assault and battery claims last year.
They allege that Oakley tried to “re-insert James Dolan into this lawsuit after the Second Circuit affirmed his dismissal as a defendant.”
Dolan’s attorneys reference a letter they previously sent to Oakley warning that his “pursuit of assault and battery claims against the Defendants are baseless and sanctionable.”
The District Court Judge denied Oakley’s motion to amend the suit and granted Dolan’s motion for summary judgment this month, effectively dismissing all remaining claims in a shocking affront to the Appellate decision calling for a jury trial.
In his opinion, District Judge Richard Sullivan wrote:
“T]he undisputed video evidence conclusively demonstrates that the Garden’s security guards did not use excessive force as they escorted Oakley from the arena. To the contrary, the video clearly shows that: (1) the guards asked Oakley to leave; (2) they gave him a chance to leave; and (3) when he refused to leave, and in fact escalated the confrontation, they removed him from the Garden by using a degree of force that was indisputably reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances”.
The Judge also wrote that Oakley’s version of events are “so blatantly contradicted by therecord… that no reasonable jury could believe [them].”
Dolan’s attorneys claim Oakley is only pursuing the lawsuit to “harass” Dolan and abuse the legal process, claiming his case is full of “bald-faced lies” that “have no place in a federal courtroom” and are “aimed at achieving fleeting victories in the court of public opinion.”
“By subverting the Court’s truth-seeking function in service of this misguided public relations campaign, Oakley and his counsel have wasted judicial time and resources,” writes Dolan’s law firm.
The fact that Oakley is exercising his right to appeal is unlikely to form the basis for any justifiable sanctions, particularly since he partially won on his last appeal. It seems strange that the District Judge granted Dolan’s motion for summary judgment, effectively depriving him of a right to a jury trial on the assault and battery claims after a panel of Appellate Judges said that there was a factual basis for those claims and that those claims should be decided by a jury and not a Judge.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the Appellate Court rules on this.
To see the video of Oakley’s ejection and decide for yourself whether excessive force was used, click below.