Jail Blazers image lives on
Team jolted again after three arrests in five days
Two years ago, Sue Carpenter, then a Portland Trail Blazer spokeswoman, tried to compare the plight of Rasheed Wallace, who'd been suspended for a rash of technical fouls, with that of Jason Kidd.
At the time, Kidd, a Phoenix Suns player, had been charged with spousal abuse. Carpenter said that no matter how badly Wallace behaved on the court, his actions couldn't compare to those of a man who beat his wife.
This week, the Trail Blazers may have exceeded Carpenter's metaphoric nadir. Three players were arrested in five days. Ruben Patterson has been charged with felony domestic abuse, while Damon Stoudamire and Rasheed Wallace have been charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Although the cases are far from over, law enforcement authorities say it will be hard for Patterson, Stoudamire and Wallace to beat the charges, even though their track records suggest otherwise.
Whitsitt claims responsibility
Patterson was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife, Shannon, on Monday in their Tualatin home. The Clackamas County district attorney's office is still weighing whether to present the case against Patterson to a grand jury.
According to Chief Deputy District Attorney Roger Hanlon, two factors that will be considered in the decision are whether the couple have a history of fighting and whether the alleged assault was witnessed by their children.
In both cases, the answers are yes. Washington state court records reveal that the Pattersons have a volatile marriage. And, according to Tualatin police, the couple's 2- and 10-year-old children witnessed Monday's incident.
Patterson already has been convicted of crimes of violence, including separate assault and rape charges. In fact, he is still on probation in the rape case and must serve 350 days in jail on that charge if convicted of any other crime.
Stoudamire and Wallace are legally vulnerable, too. Police records indicate they both admitted smoking marijuana before being arrested last Thursday. Small amounts of marijuana were found in their vehicle, including residue in a tin case with a picture of reggae star Bob Marley on the lid.
'Marley is practically a universal symbol for marijuana consumption,' noted Lewis County Prosecutor Jeremy Randolph, whose office is in charge of the cases.
Representatives of Blazers owner Paul Allen referred calls on the matter back to team officials.
Bob Whitsitt, the Blazers' presi-dent, apologized for the incidents and said he and the team's front office are accountable for the players' off-court actions.
'I'm in charge, and I'm responsible for everything that goes on with the team,' he said. 'But by no means does that mean I'm a one-man band making all the decisions. It takes a huge staff, and we have to work together to eliminate these things. But I'm the boss and, at the end of the day, I'm responsible.'
Violent tendencies seen in college
Patterson was arrested Monday on a felony domestic assault charge after his wife told 911 operators that he assaulted her at the couple's Tualatin home.
Police said Shannon Patterson had a cut finger and other marks on her body. The charge, normally a misdemeanor, is considered a felony because it allegedly occurred in front of the couple's children.
After the arrest, Shannon Patterson issued a statement through Ruben Patterson's agent saying she did not want him prosecuted. She called the incident a private matter, claiming that she was not assaulted and that her statements to the police were 'incomplete.'
But Hanlon said Ruben Patterson can be prosecuted over his wife's objections.
'Certainly the victim's wishes are a factor, but not the only one,' Hanlon said.
His office will consider several circumstances in deciding whether to present the case to a grand jury, including whether there's a history of abuse, the severity of the injuries, whether a weapon was involved and whether the children actually witnessed the incident.
When considering Patterson's history, several incidents immediately stand out.
Before beginning his NBA career in 1999, Patterson experienced several problems at the University of Cincinnati, including an aggravated burglary arrest and a pair of school and NCAA suspensions.
Then, in June 2000, Patterson broke a man's jaw during a fight outside a nightclub in Cleveland. He allegedly struck the man for scratching his car.
Patterson was charged with felonious assault but eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, receiving a suspended six-month jail sentence, 80 hours of community service and one year of probation.
But the most serious incident happened after Patterson was acquired by the Seattle SuperSonics and moved to Bellevue, Wash. In September 2000, he was charged with raping the family's 24-year-old baby sitter.
According to the Bellevue police department, the Pattersons' baby sitter had been staying overnight with the family while Shannon Patterson underwent 'tummy-tuck' surgery.
The department's report said that the baby sitter entered the Pattersons' bedroom to check on the couple's 14-month-old baby and encountered Ruben Patterson as he was masturbating. As she tried to leave the room, the naked Patterson grabbed her and forced her into a nearby room, according to the report.
The baby sitter told police she tried to fight back but could not because of Patterson's 'size and strength,' the report said.
The baby sitter 'fear(ed) the assault would escalate' if she did not give in, the report said.
Patterson then implored the baby sitter to 'not ÉÊtell anyone what had happened,' the report said.
Patterson agreed to plead guilty to one charge of third-degree rape. He was sentenced to 15 days of home detention and two years of probation, which he is still completing.
Fast and foolish
It was hard for Washington state police Sgt. Rob Huss to miss the bright yellow Hummer blasting south on Interstate 5 just before midnight Nov. 21. According to his report, it was even harder to miss the smell of marijuana coming out of the vehicle after he pulled it over for speeding.
Despite the odor, the three occupants Ñ Stoudamire, Wallace and driver Edward Smith Ñ originally denied there was any marijuana in the vehicle. Smith even seemed outraged that Huss wanted to press the issue, reportedly saying, 'Man, I can't believe you're going to play it this way.'
But, according to the report, Stoudamire and Wallace both admitted that marijuana had been smoked in the Hummer. Huss thought that Stoudamire was clearly affected by the drug, writing, 'I observed Stoudamire's eyes appeared bloodshot and dazed.'
Stoudamire and Wallace both claimed that there was no more marijuana in the vehicle, saying it had all been smoked. But when Huss said a police dog was being called to search for drugs, Stoudamire repeatedly tried to blame Smith, the driver, if any was found.
'Stoudamire said if there was more marijuana in the vehicle, it was put in the vehicle without his knowledge, possibly by the driver Ñ Smith,' the report reads at one point.
But a dog searching the Hummer found small amounts of marijuana in several locations, including the unlocked glove box near where Stoudamire was riding and the floor in front of Wallace's seat. The report also said police found marijuana in a small tin box with Marley's picture on the lid in a seat pouch in front of Wallace.
The police did not charge Stoudamire, who according to the report also admitted sipping on a Smirnoff Ice malt beverage during the ride home, with possessing an open liquor container. The offense is punishable by an $86 fine.
Search nets contraband
The Stoudamire-Wallace incident comes seven months after police found marijuana in Stoudamire's Lake Oswego home. The charges were eventually dismissed because police had searched the home without a warrant.
Stoudamire told the Washington state police that he was 'not guilty' of the Lake Oswego charge because the evidence was thrown out.
Randolph doesn't think the evidence will be thrown out in this case, however. The Lewis County prosecutor says people are routinely convicted of drug possession charges after being pulled over for speeding in Washington.
More than that, Randolph said the state merely has to prove that Stoudamire, Wallace and Smith had control over the marijuana in the vehicle Ñ something the reports say they admitted.
This is the third time Stoudamire has been arrested. In addition to the two marijuana cases, he was arrested for a fight at Wilson High School more than a decade ago. He was charged with assault after throwing a bucket of cleaning solution in another student's face. The student was hospitalized for several days, as doctors feared he might lose his sight. The victim eventually recovered.
The charges against Stoudamire were dismissed after he struck a community service deal. A source said the victim eventually transferred because he was harassed after the incident.
By coincidence, Patterson, Stoudamire and Wallace are all scheduled to enter pleas in their cases Dec. 6.