Lawsuits were filed against Hornets draft pick
Six months before the Charlotte Hornets selected Jalen McDaniels in the second round of the NBA Draft, the former San Diego State standout was sued by two female high school classmates, who claim that McDaniels recorded them performing sexual acts without their consent.
Those lawsuits, which were filed in King County, Wash., last December, go on to say that McDaniels shared the videos with his friends at Federal Way High School, outside of Tacoma. The complaints also name McDaniels’ high school coach and school district as defendants.
The girls, both accomplished student-athletes themselves, were taunted and experienced “slut-shaming” at school and during sports events in which they competed, their lawsuits say.
According to the complaint, one of them dropped out of high school. Both attempted suicide, which their attorney says was directly related to McDaniels’ videos.
No criminal charges were filed. According to the Seattle Times, prosecutors in King County, Wash., said police failed to find “sexual motivation” in the incidents — an important part of proving criminal voyeurism.
Still, McDaniels’ selection in the NBA Draft early Friday morning raises questions about the rigor of the Hornets’ due diligence in making the pick and how the player’s high school conduct factored into the decision.
Asked about the lawsuits immediately after the draft, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said, “Quite frankly it’s a legal matter, and I’m not prepared to comment on it. But we’ve been aware of it for months. Really, that’s about all I can say about it.”
One of McDaniels’ attorneys, Angelo Calfo of Seattle, told the Observer that his client “regrets what occurred and any harm these two young women experienced.”
“Jalen was a minor in high school at the time. He has never done anything like this before or has he since,” Calfo said. “He looks forward to resolving these civil lawsuits so he and the two young women can move forward.”
Joan Mell, the Seattle-based attorney representing the two women, told the Observer that McDaniels has never taken responsibility for his actions nor fully apologized to his clients.
She went on to say that the Hornets and team owner Michael Jordan should never have drafted McDaniels.
“The Charlotte Hornets’ selection feels dirty. When millions of young women sport Jordan’s kicks and follow the game, they should feel safe knowing that team is not inviting perpetrators into the national spotlight who do not respect women,” Mell said.
“I would think that there is a character qualification when you’re out on a stage like that. If he can display character, great. But I haven’t seen it.”
Friday afternoon, the Observer sent the Hornets a list of questions about their predraft assessment of McDaniels, the allegations against him, and whether they had talked with the accusers or their attorney.
“We are aware of the civil lawsuit involving Jalen McDaniels and are monitoring developments in the case,” the team told the Observer in a statement. “As this is a pending legal matter, it is inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”
The Observer does not identify the alleged victims of sexual assault or misconduct. The names of the two women have been used in the Washington-based coverage of the case, and they have also appeared on Seattle-area TV.
Both women have filed similar complaints. One alleges McDaniels secretly filmed her during sex with one of his high school teammates, while the other claims McDaniels filmed her having sex with him.
In the first incident, which the lawsuit says took place in January 2016, McDaniels hid in a closet while recording the woman with his friend, the accuser’s complaint says. Later, according to the lawsuit, he shared the footage in a group chat with his basketball teammates and others.
The female student learned of what had happened several weeks later when classmates began deriding her.
When her father learned of the recording, according to court documents, he approached McDaniels’ coach. The coach informed McDaniels’ father of the incident, the lawsuit says, but did not follow school district policy in reporting the event to law enforcement or protective services.
Later, the coach brought McDaniels and his teammate who appeared in the video to apologize to the female student in the school cafeteria. Court documents say McDaniels’ teammate “appeared genuinely apologetic” while McDaniels did not.
According to the lawsuit, “McDaniels leaned back, kept his arms crossed, rolled his eyes and uttered ‘My bad, (redacted).’”
In November 2017, while the woman was enrolled in Stanford University, she overdosed on medication in a suicide attempt, Mell said.
The second incident also took place in January 2016, court documents say. After the second female student gave McDaniels a ride home from school, the pair “became intimate” in an apartment complex parking lot.
The complaint says that female student “was not aware of and did not consent to McDaniels using his telephone to video record their intimate acts.”
In the weeks to come, according to court filings, McDaniels shared the video with friends in a group chat.
When the student confronted McDaniels, he told her he did not want to get in trouble over the video, also disclosing how he had “avoided getting in trouble for video recording and disseminating an unauthorized sex video of another student,” the lawsuit says.
In the fall of 2016, McDaniels left for San Diego State. The second female student, who remained at Federal Way High, “sliced her own arms from wrist to elbow with a box cutter she purchased at the grocery store with a bag of Hot Cheetos to disguise her suicidal intent.”
In March, McDaniels told the Seattle Times that he couldn’t help but speculate about how others view him.
“It’s just going out there on the court with 12,000 fans every night and their perspective of you from what they read,” he said. “You never know what they think of you. You can say it doesn’t affect you but it really does. I just want to let them know I’m growing every day to be a better person.”
Asked by the Seattle paper what he would tell his accusers, McDaniels said: “I really can’t talk about it. Hopefully there is a time I can come out and say things, but right now I just can’t.”