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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.

The woman said she was invited to Wingate's home, and while en route, became ill and asked to be let out of the car. Wingate allegedly accompanied the woman, who said he then raped her by the side of the road while she was ill. The victim alleged that later, after being assisted to a bedroom at Wingate's home, she was awakened several times during the night to find men having sex with her.

According to the woman's attorney, Marynell Maloney, San Antonio police blithely dismissed her client's case. A civil suit was filed before Wingate received a criminal indictment.

"You have to understand San Antonio," Maloney said. "The Spurs are the only game in town."

Maloney said her client, suffering from mental anguish, dropped out of college after the alleged attack in San Antonio. The father of the Baltimore teen-ager said his daughter has difficulty sleeping at night and concentrating in school, but still plans to enroll in college next fall.

In a bad position

Many of Wingate's friends and former teammates, while supporting his claims of innocence, say he placed himself in a precarious situation. They said that athletes often can emerge as targets in legal cases.

"I don't think it's that difficult to happen because you're in the limelight," Jackson said. "People want to be with you. People like to be associated with people in the know. That's why you see athletes who are reclusive. You've got to be careful."

Bob Bass, general manager of the Spurs, said: "There are some decisions a player has to make, and evidently, David didn't make the correct one.

"People will take a piece of you. They'll take your time and energy. Ladies will give you temptations. You have to make the right decisions. It's a glamorous life. A player has to decide to be the best and can't let people pull at him."

Wingate's Texas attorney, Gerald Goldstein, said, "Athletes are looked at as role models with deep pockets."

Wingate's lawyers said they have been approached by representatives for the alleged victims suggesting the cases could be dropped if Wingate paid money as part of an out-of-court settlement. The father of the Baltimore teen-ager denied making any such proposal, and representatives of the San Antonio woman could not be reached for comment.

Wingate met with the 17-year-old Baltimore girl the day before Thanksgiving and apologized "for his inappropriate behavior" in having sexual relations with her. But he did not admit to rape.

For now, Wingate is a man without a team and without a job. His legal fees already have reached $150,000, and he received a settlement from the Spurs, who will pay him a portion of the deferred compensation in his previous contract. His nephew Green smashed up Wingate's Jaguar and injured a mother and child; Green faces drunken-driving charges.

Even if Wingate is acquitted of rape charges, or an out-of-court settlement is reached, it appears unlikely the Spurs will re-sign him.

McCombs noted with relief that the team had received only a few angry letters after the incident and no fans had shown up at the team's home games bearing abusive placards.

"Of course, we wish this had never happened," he said.

"David was the most popular player on the team," Larry Brown said. "I don't know how many times it has been written and said, but they miss him. He did a great job for us and, as far as I know, he is a model citizen. You have to understand, none of us talk about him coming back. That is important to understand. That is incidental. What we want to see is David get through this and start his life again."

Wingate practices and waits. A man who made his living on a basketball court may have his future decided in a court of law.

"I think I'll be back playing," he said. "This could happen to anyone."

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