In an area where David Wingate rose to stardom as a basketball player, memories of his past triumphs are being overshadowed by a Howard County rape charge.
For Baltimore and San Antonio -- where Wingate has built up his basketball livelihood, currently as a $450,000-a-year member of the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs -- a once-bright star has fallen.
Howard County police on Monday charged Wingate, 26, with second-degree rape for the alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old Baltimore girl. The victim claims she was attacked Sunday at a party at Wingate's Columbia apartment. If convicted, Wingate faces up to 20 years in prison.
In San Antonio, where Wingate will start the upcoming season as a free agent without a contract, NBA officials and the team's management are standing by Wingate.
"We're standing firm on the constitutional belief that a man is innocent until proven guilty. We want to hear more information about what happened," said Matt Sperisen, a Spurs spokesman. "It's hit hard so far. David's been family here and he was an instrumental part of our success last year."
The NBA security office is investigating the allegations and will issue a report tomorrow afternoon on possible action by the league against Wingate, Sperisen said.
All Spurs players' contracts carry a morals clause, but it applies to criminal violations and not arrests, Sperisen said.
Wingate is an unregistered free agent with the Spurs, meaning he is playing without a contract and may offer his services to other teams if he wishes. However, contract negotiations have been proceeding between Wingate and the Spurs, who "had been talking to David about a new contract with us," Sperisen said.
But locally, Wingate's reputation has been tarnished.
"Connect him to Georgetown. Don't connect him to Dunbar," said Elzee Gladden, the principal of Baltimore's Dunbar High, where Wingate was one of the school's most popular and successful basketball players by the time he graduated in 1982. Wingate also graduated from Georgetown University in 1986 and played on the Hoyas' 1984 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship team.
Gladden said he heard no one mention Wingate's name at the high school yesterday. Wingate played at the school for his junior and senior years, playing on the Poets' undefeated 1981-82 team that sent three other players to the NBA.
"He's been gone almost 10 years. They forget you after three," said Gladden, who took over as principal the year after Wingate's graduated.
"Maybe they'll remember him at Georgetown, but he's not well-known here."
Bob Wade, Wingate's coach at Dunbar, who became close to Wingate during his years at Dunbar, did not return several phone calls to his office yesterday.
The charges against Wingate -- which also include a fourth-degree sexual offense and battery -- are spelled out in District Court records that allege Wingate continually made advances to the alleged victim while she was heavily intoxicated. A grand jury will deliberate on the charges Thursday.
Police say the girl arrived at Wingate's apartment, in the 11300 block of Little Patuxent Parkway, about 6:30 p.m. Wingate, according to court records, picked up both the girl and her older sister from their Baltimore home and drove them to Columbia in his white Jaguar automobile.
Police say two male friends of Wingate were also at the party. The girl reported she drank a lot of beer and tequila before vomiting twice in a bathroom at the apartment, court papers said.
Shortly after going into an empty bedroom to lie down on the floor, Wingate came in the room and began making sexual advances, the girl reported to police.
The girl reported that she repeatedly told Wingate to stop but that he would not. She also said she tried to physically resist his advances, but "she was so drunk and felt so out of it that she was helpless," court records said.
During a county police interview, the victim's sister reported that she became suspicious of what Wingate was doing in the room alone with her sister. She asked one of the other men to check on her; the man told her he would but apparently did not, the girl said in court records.
The sister decided to enter the room herself and when she attempted to open the door, another of the male guests blocked her from entering, court papers said. She struggled with the man and pushed her way past him into the room, where she saw Wingate lying on her sister with his pants down, court papers said.
Both sisters then left the apartment and notified police. Wingate was arrested late Monday afternoon after an interview at county police headquarters.
During that interview, Wingate admitted the girl had been drinking and had become sick on two occasions. But Wingate said "the intercourse was consentual," court papers said.
Wingate was released at 11 p.m. Monday from the Howard County Detention Center, where he had been ordered held on $10,000 bond.
During a press conference in San Antonio yesterday, Spurs owner B.J.
"Red" McCombs called Wingate a committed team player who "never gave any indication he would be charged with something like this."
"I hurt for him and all our fans," McCombs said. "I'm concerned for him because these are very serious charges."