Charles Oakley rejects plea deal, will fight NY Knicks in court


charles-oakley-2Charles Oakley’s never been one to back down from a fight, and he doesn’t much feel like doing it now … so he will see the New York Knicks in court.

Four months after being arrested and hauled out of Madison Square Garden following an altercation with security guards at a Knicks game, the former Knicks forward and longtime fan favorite has rejected a plea deal that would have dismissed the four charges he faces — assault, aggravated harassment, criminal trespass and harassment — and cleared his criminal record provided he maintain “good behavior” for six months.

Instead, Oakley “requested a trial to fight those charges,” according to Ian Begley of ESPN.com. He will go to trial on Aug. 4.

On Feb. 8, Oakley, who attended a NY Knicks game against the LA Clippers in Madison Square Garden was captured on camera shoving what was reportedly a Madison Square Garden security guard near courtside before being hauled off by a slew of security personnel and taken away from the court.

What preceded the altercation remained unclear. The Knicks officially claim Oakley “came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner”.

Some suggested Oakley had incited things by yelling at Knicks owner James L. Dolan, with whom Oakley has long had a frosty relationship. Others said they never saw Oakley exchange words with Dolan or attempt to provoke him in any way.

In the days that followed, Oakley publicly maintained his innocence. The 53-year-old insisted that that he hadn’t said a word to Dolan to provoke the incident with security, and said he’d barely been in the Garden five minutes before he’d been approached and told he needed to leave. He claimed that he’d been approached in similar fashion by Garden security in the past, though matters had never escalated to a physical level.

Oakley claimed that this one did only because one of the security guards made contact with him first. Fan-shot video published by the New York Post seemed to indicate that the eruption came only after Oakley fell to the ground while one of the several security guards crowded him held his left arm.

The Knicks continued to hew to their version of events, though, issuing a second statement the day after the incident claiming that “dozens of security staff, employees and NYPD […] witnessed Oakley’s abusive behavior,” and calling the longtime NBA enforcer’s recounting ” pure fiction.”

Dolan even made a rare media appearance, going on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio to say that the Knicks were banning Oakley from MSG in the interest of preserving “the safety and the comfort of the fans.”

Dolan further suggested Oakley “had a problem” with anger, and “may have a problem with alcohol”. Oakley responded to the allegations, saying he is not an alcoholic.

Several days later, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement calling the Oakley-Dolan fiasco “beyond disheartening,” and saying that he’d brokered a meeting between the two parties at the league offices that was joined via telephone by Michael Jordan, Oakley’s longtime friend and owner of the Charlotte Hornets. One day after that, the MSG ban was lifted, but Oakley didn’t exactly rush to make nice with Dolan, whom he termed “a control freak”.

During his court appearance, Oakley was offered “an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal — an agreement that would lead to charges being dropped if Oakley stays out of trouble for a set time and complies with an unspecified order of protection,” according to ESPN’s Begley.

On his way out of the courtroom, the forward who had starred for the Knicks from 1988 through 1998 was asked what he thought about the coming trial.

“It’s part of life, part of life,” he said. “I love my chances.”

Oakley played 19 years in the NBA, for Chicago Bulls, NY Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets. Oakley spent 10 years with the NY Knicks. He played a total of 1282 games (started 1159), averaging 9.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg in 31.4 mpg.

Oakley led the NBA in total rebounds for 2 straight years in a row (1987, 1988), and was known to be one of the toughest forwards in the league. Oakley was named an NBA All-Star in 1994, while playing for the Knicks.


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