A Howard County Circuit Court judge granted a postponement of the second-degree rape trial of David Wingate after the defense attorney said the San Antonio Spurs indicated they would rehire the standout basketball guard if he can play the remainder of the NBA season without interruption by a trial.
Circuit Court Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. postponed Wingate's scheduled April 1 trial to Aug. 5 over the objection of the prosecutor, Kate O'Donnell. Kane said that even though the state opposed continuance, the prosecutor said the delay would not affect its ability to proceed. The judge said he was influenced bydefense representation that a delay would allow Wingate to work to pay his attorney fees and the cost of an investigator.
Wingate is free on $10,000 bail.
The defense attorney, Philip H. Armstrong, also said in a written motion seeking the continuance that Wingate, 27, has reached a settlement that will result in the dismissal of all civil and criminal charges pending against him in Texas. A 22-year-old woman there claimed Wingate met her at a San Antonio night club and raped her en route to his house. There has been no confirmation, however, that the civil suit has been cleared.
Armstrong also told the court that preliminary discussions have occurred in connection with the Howard County case, in which a 17-year-old Baltimore girl says she was raped Sept. 16 at Wingate's Columbia apartment.
Armstrong told the court that the discussions "may result in the disposition of the case without a trial." However, O'Donnell challenged the defense assertion, saying the state plans to try the rape case against Wingate.
Wingate appeared in court, wearing a dark shirt with an olive-gray double-breasted suit. He waived his right to a speedy trial in agreeing to the postponement and also waived his right to be at his motions hearing Feb. 21.
The defense motion said Wingate has been unable to work after the rape charges were filed against him. Wingate was the Spurs' top reserve guard last season and came within 48 hours of signing a three-year, $2.5 million contract with the National Basketball Association team last September. But the offer was withdrawn by the team after rape charges in Maryland were filed. By resuming his job with the Spurs, Wingate would be able "to meet his legal expenses and pay his living expenses," Armstrong said in his motion.
Armstrong said Wingate has "consistently denied any wrongdoing in this matter and has every reason to believe he will be exonerated at trial."
In a later interview, Armstrong said: "The case was simply continued. If that enables David to get back into basketball, that's a wonderful development for him."
Wingate, through his attorney, declined to comment.
Wingate's status with the Spurs remains unclear. San Antonio Spurs owner Red McCombs said the team will comment on Wingate's future "in the next few days." Sources in San Antonio indicated the primary obstacle to Wingate's return is agreeing to a contract. William Strickland, Wingate's representative at ProServ, declined to comment.
"I did get a call they had a continuance," McCombs said when contacted in San Antonio. "We don't have any comments on the Wingate case."