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David Wingate stands accused, his career, life in limbo

December 16, 1990|By Bill Glauber Mike Littwin of The Sun's sports staff contributed to this article.

"When we got him, Mo Cheeks said David was a great kid who had to get away from Baltimore and his friends," Brown said. "When he was in Philadelphia, he'd go down to Baltimore, and Mo said he didn't think it was a good environment for him."

Wingate thrived in the Southwest, his health restored, his attitude bolstered by an association with Brown. He averaged 6.8 points in 78 games, becoming the team's top reserve guard.

"I didn't see the best player in the world, but I thought he could play," Brown said. "I saw his attitude, his competitiveness. I thought he was going to help us."

Wingate was popular off the court. Spurs chairman Red McCombs said, "He was one of our more dedicated players in making numerous appearances throughout the community."

At last, Wingate had found a home in the NBA. He wasn't a star, but, in this league, even the co-stars become millionaires. Last summer, he became a restricted free agent. The Spurs, a team on the brink of contending for the league championship, held his rights and made him an offer: $2.25 million over three years. In 1990-91, he would make more than $600,000. Wingate was delighted. He purchased a champagne-colored Jaguar.

And, then, on Sunday, Sept. 16, Wingate, his nephew Gregory Lamont Green, and a friend, Aaron Webb, drove into Baltimore to the home of Green's girlfriend. The girlfriend and her teen-age sister accompanied the men to Wingate's apartment on the 11300 block of Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. They were going to have a party.

"The girls had been over there several times before," said their father. "That's why I trusted them. The car came by the house. The boys blew the horn. And the girls left."

By noon Monday, Wingate was being questioned by Howard County police on suspicion of second-degree rape. By Wednesday, the day he was supposed to sign a contract with the Spurs, Wingate was facing another charge of rape in San Antonio.

Feeling wronged, frustrated

"You never once heard of me being in anything bad," Wingate said. "I never once did anything bad."

He sat in his attorney's office in Rockville, nearly three months after the alleged assault in Howard County. A police siren wailed in the background. Wingate was wearing brown loafers without socks, dark brown slacks and a brown paisley shirt opened at the collar to reveal a gold chain and crucifix.

He chose his words carefully and frequently turned to his attorney for guidance. Soft-spoken, Wingate viewed himself as wronged and became frustrated at times while defending his behavior in the Howard County incident.

From his first encounter with Howard County police, in which he submitted a four-page, handwritten statement detailing his version of the incident, Wingate has maintained he had consensual intercourse with the 17-year-old, a high school senior. He said he had known her for several months, and the alleged victim's older sister for several years.

"If I knew it was anything wrong, I wouldn't have done it," Wingate said.

According to the alleged victim, she, her sister, Wingate, Green and Webb arrived at the apartment in the Clary's Crossing apartment complex at about 6:30 p.m., and began drinking beer and tequila. The victim reported drinking heavily and becoming sick. She then went into an empty bedroom and lay down. Wingate allegedly came into the room, lay next to her and began to fondle her.

The girl said she tried to resist, but "was so drunk and felt so out of it that she was helpless." Her sister then allegedly pushed her way into the bedroom past Green and Webb, and found Wingate lying on top of the victim with his pants down.

The sisters left the apartment and waited by a nearby shopping center for police. An examination of the alleged victim by a physician confirmed sexual contact. But, according to court documents, her blood alcohol level was .03, well under the .07 considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol in Maryland.

The father of the sisters said he believes drinking is at the root of Wingate's problems.

"Drinking changes his personality," the father said. "He was well-mannered. I really think alcohol played a strong factor in the situation."

Wingate said he never has had a drinking problem and never has taken illegal drugs.

"People know I'm not a bad guy," he said.

Another charge

Once charges were filed in Howard County, another rape charge surfaced in San Antonio. In what local prosecutors called a "startlingly similar" case, a 22-year-old woman said she was raped by Wingate, Edward Saunders and Joel Mendiola June 23 and in the early morning hours of June 24. The woman alleged she encountered Wingate and Saunders, a former St. Mary's University basketball player, while the men were drinking rounds of tequila shots at a local bar.

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