LOS ANGELES — Jurors cleared Knicks point guard Derrick Rose and two friends Wednesday in a lawsuit that accused them of gang raping his former girlfriend when she was incapacitated from drugs or alcohol.
The jury reached the verdict in federal court in Los Angeles after hearing dramatically different accounts of the August 2013 sexual encounter.
Rose says he’s thankful that the jury rejected the lawsuit.
He said in a statement to The Associated Press that it was important to prove he did not do what he was accused of, even though he had to share private details of his personal life.
“I am thankful that the jury understood and agreed with me,” his statement said. “This experience and my sensitivity to it was deep. I am ready to put this behind me and focus on my family and career.”
“That’s great news,” said Carmelo Anthony, who was in Boston for the Knicks’ preseason game against the Celtics. “What he can do now is put that behind him and just focus in on the task at hand of getting back into the flow of things. From that standpoint we’re excited about that, just to have him back.
“Me personally I know how hard he’s working to get to this point, to be here with us. I’m just glad that it’s over with. It was an unfortunate situation on both sides.”
“It’s a tough thing he went through,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “But now it’s over, now he can focus on basketball. I know that’s what Derrick wants to do. We’re just all glad it’s done with and now he can get back here and focus on basketball.”
Hornacek said he hadn’t spoken to Rose since the verdict and didn’t know when he would rejoin the Knicks. He’s missed nine practices and the last four preseason games. Hornacek said it’s unlikely that Rose, who left the team on Oct. 5, would play in Thursday’s final preseason game against the Nets at Barclays Center without going through a practice.
“Probably not,” Hornacek said. “The only thing is if he says I’m going to be there in the morning, and I want to play and I want to get out there, then we’ll consider it. But I don’t see that being the case [Thursday]. We do have those three days to practice after that. More than likely he’s not going to be there [Thursday night].”
The Knicks won’t practice Friday, but Hornacek said Rose could be in the gym going over some of the things he’s missed during the past two-plus weeks. Hornacek said Rose would go through the last three practices before Tuesday’s season opener in Cleveland and likely start in that game.
“I think he’s obviously relieved it’s over with,” Hornacek said. “His focus has been basketball. That’s what he keeps telling us. We have to get him up to speed on some of the things we’ve put in.”
Rose was in court, looking down as the verdict was read.
As soon as the first question was answered by the jury, his attorney got up and shook the hand of each of the three defendants.
“All three men were innocent from Day 1,” Rose’s attorney, Mark Baute, said. “We’re very happy that the system worked.”
“It’s great that the truth came out,” said Knicks center Joakim Noah, who also was Rose’s teammate in Chicago. “But at the same time it’s unfortunate that we didn’t have our point guard for all of preseason.” Noah then added, “It’s a distraction not just for him but for the whole team.”
The woman’s attorney, Waukeen McCoy, said he will explore appeal options.
“I think it’s a shame for women, for this country that a celebrity can come into court and slut-shame a woman like my client,” McCoy said.
Though the accuser’s reaction could not be seen as the verdict was read, McCoy said she was devastated and did not understand how jurors could reach their conclusion.
The woman, who became emotional and trembled while testifying, had sought $21.5 million when she filed suit, but her attorney did not put a price on the case Tuesday during closing arguments, saying it was up to the jury.
Rose’s lawyer said the future of his client and his whole family was at stake because of a morals clause in his player contract and an endorsement deal with adidas.
Baute urged jurors to recognize the suit as a “hoax and a joke” and not even award $20 because that could destroy Rose’s career and trigger financial ruin for hin and the extended family and friends he had pulled out of poverty from Chicago’s south side with his talent on the court.
Lawyers sparred for nearly three hours during the bitter closing arguments.
The woman’s lawyer said the 30-year-old college student was not a gold digger and was seeking accountability for what was morally and legally wrong.
He said the men never had apologized or shown any remorse and said their behavior was reprehensible enough to trigger punitive damages beyond any compensation.
“The three men laughed their way home,” attorney McCoy said.
The defense portrayed Rose and his childhood pals, Ryan Allen and Randall Hampton, who both work for him, as victims in the case and the lawyers mocked the woman’s lies and demeanor on the witness stand.
“This woman has tried to trick people through much of her life, men especially,” attorney Michael Monico said. “Who is she trying to trick in this courtroom, ladies and gentlemen? You. She doesn’t have any evidence, but she can cry.”
With Al Iannazzone in Boston