Nelson v. Time Inc and George Dohrmann – Pt I: The Affidavits

[I apologize for the formatting difficulties that may make this difficult to read. I did my best. The problem I encountered was trying to copy the exact quotes from the pleading, which was in .pdf format, to this post. Sorry.]

Yesterday, Reeves Nelson sued Sports Illustrated and George Dohrmann challenging the accuracy of the way he was portrayed in the article Special Report: Not the UCLA Way.

The “complaint”, filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, sets forth 3 causes of action or legal claims against the defendants: 1. Defamation; 2. False Light; and, 3. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

In a series of posts, I’ll try to analyze the content of the pleadings from both sides – as they are filed.

(Front pagers – is there a way we can put the pleadings somewhere where everyone can read them? If so, I’ll send a copy for posting. The complaint and accompanying exhibits contain 64 pages.)

I don’t want to go to deeply into the law, now, because that’s not what I find most interesting about the complaint.

In essence, Nelson is claiming that the statements about him in the article are not true and that Dohrman was either negligent or reckless when he wrote them. (There is a long discussion of this in yesterday’s thread).

Here’s what I find most interesting: In support of his complaint, Nelson has attached 18 affidavits – sworn statements made under oath and under the threat that false statements can be prosecuted as perjury.

The affidavits are from 18 Bruin basketball players, all of whom have had direct contact with Reeves Nelson and were team members during the period covered by the article.

The 18 are: Matt DeMarcus; Larry Drew, Jr.; Drew Gordon; Tyler Honeycutt; Kenny Jones; Tyler Lamb; Lazeric Jones; Malcolm Lee; J’mison Morgan; Alex Schrempf; Josh Smith; Anthony Stover; Travis Wear; Tyler Trapani; Norman Powell; David Wear; Blake Arnet; and Jerime Anderson.

No affidavits are attached from James Keefe, Mike Moser, and Matt Carlino. However, IIRC – Keefe has previously denied the accuracy of the story.

By providing the affidavits, I think the plaintiff’s lawyer is trying to make two points:

First, that Dohrmann did not have reliable sources for what he wrote – that he did not interview the players who knew the most; and,

Second, that what Dorman wrote about Nelson was not true – and that his teammates will testify that it was not true.

In the article Dohrmann states that

Over the last two months SI spoke with more than a dozen players and staff members from the past four Bruins teams.

In the article, he does not name any of those players.

The affidavits are from players who played and practiced with Nelson and were present during the time and/or at the events about which Dohrmann wrote.

Perhaps the main point in the affidavits is that Dohrmann neither interviewed nor attempted to contact 16 of the players directly connected to Nelson during his playing days.

By listing these 18 players, the potential sources are dramatically limited. We now know the players who were not the sources.

And, we know who two of the players were. Alex Schrempf and Blake Arnett, were interviewed, over the phone, by Dohrmann. (As will be seen below, both told Dohrmann that the information he had was not accurate.)

Four players, characterized by Dohrmann as Nelson‘s “victims” – Drew Gordon, Tyler Trapani, Tyler Honeycutt, and Alex Schrempf have given affidavits in support of Nelson. All four deny the accuracy of Dohrmann’s story.

Drew Gordon declares:

The article's description of Nelson's behavior toward me is false. We have never had a fight, not at a tean1mate's apartment or anywhere else. nor has Nelson ever given me a black eye from a fight or otherwise.

Tyler Honeycutt declares:

I understand that the article references a New Year's Eve incident between me and my teammate and roommate Reeves Nelson ("Nelson"). Contrary to the story told in Dohnnann's article, Nelson did not pile my clothes onto my bed on New Year's Eve, and he certainly did not urinate on my clothes. 1 did not request to be moved to a single dorm room because of any conduct by Nelson. On the contrary, Nelson played a minor college prank on me, throwing some jolly ranchercandy and baby powder on my bed and flipping over the mattress when I left our dorm room.

Alex Schrempf – who spoke with Dohrmann declares:

I spoke with Dohrmann regarding this article prior to it being published. During our telephonic conversation, Dohnnann told me that he had heard that Reeves Nelson ("Nelson") intentionally hurt me during practice as part of his "pattern" of abusive behavior toward teammates. I explained to Dohrmann that any such claims or stories were incorrect.

During our conversation, Dohrmann specifically told me that he had "heard" that Nelson intentionally injured me during practice by knocking me to the ground from behind. According to Dohrmann's "source," Nelson's conduct caused me to suffer a serious back injury. I explained to Dohrmann that this version of events was incorrect. While I was fouled by Nelson during a practice game, I explained to Dohrmann that I did not believe Nelson intentionally meant to injure me. I further explained to Dohrmann that I hurt my hip as a result of landing on my back during this practice game. I further explained to Dohrmann that I was then and remain close friends with Nelson.

Tyler Trapani Declares:

I am aware that in the article written by Dohrmann, he refers to an incident during ateam practice where I took a charge from Nelson. I did take a charge from Nelson during what we call a "3 on 2, 2 on I" drill. Contrary to what was written in the Sports Illustrated article, Nelson did not go out of his way to step on me. Moreover, I do not believe he in any way tried to harm me during this or any drill.

Blake Arnett declares:

I explained to Dohrmann that I never saw Nelson "lose it" during practice or otherwise "disrupt" practice, not because of foul calls or otherwise. I do not believe that Coach Howland gave Nelson "the henefit of the doubt on foul calls in practice so [Nelson] wouldn't lose it".

The article's description of Nelson's behavior toward teammate Tyler Trepani

("Trepani") is false. I attended the practice at which Trapani was injured. Although Nelson did fall on Trepani during a practice drill. Nelson did not go "out of his way to step on Trepani's chest as he lay on the ground." I explained this to Dohrmann during our conversation.

Dohrmann told me that he heard that on New Years Eve, Nelson urinated on teammate Tyler Honeycutt ("Honeycutt") bed after flipping the mattress over and piling Honeycutt's clothes on top. I told Dohrmann that this was the "'flrst time I had ever heard this story or anything like it.

In a like manner, the players challenge many of the other allegations in the story about Nelson’s behavior – including the purported injuries to Keefe, Moser, and the bullying of Carlino. (They say Carlino left because he did not think he was getting enough playing time.)

All of the affidavits contain some similar declarations that negate other specific parts of the story.

If you read the affidavits, you should know that, in almost all legal proceedings, the affidavits are written by the lawyers, not the affiants. That’s because they are legal documents. The lawyers interview the witnesses, write the statements, go over them with the witnesses to be sure that they are true and accurate, and then have the witnesses sign them. They never use the “voice” of the people themselves. Personally, I find that to be a fault – a mistake. But, that is the way things are done. So, if you read them and think “That’s not how a 19 year old kid would talk”, you are right. The system looks for the truth of the statements – not at how they are presented.

And if you read them, you will be struck by the structure and flow of the statements. This is not good story telling. Lawyers target particular parts of the law and the paragraphs are often aimed, in a legalistic way, to make key points the lawyers have to prove. In this case, the affidavits aim directly at parts of the story. You might expect these kids to say “That’s BS.” They don’t. They go a long way around the court to make a point – that might be better made, out of court, with a much shorter statement. Again, that’s form, not substance.

One last point – it’s not an affidavit, but it’s like an affidavit: Both Reeves and his mother allege that Dohrmann used statements each had made out of context.

Remember how the story appeared to have Reeves admitting to the acts of violence and bullying?

Reeves is charging Dohrmann with taking an answer he used to one question and using it as an answer to another.

Reeves claims that his “admission” was to a question as to why he got dropped from the team – which he says was because he laughed during the Texas game and missed a team trip. He says he took responsibility for those actions.

Nelson says Dohrmann took that answer and made it seem that Reeves was admitting the violent acts and bullying in the article.

So, now we have one side of the story.

At some point, the defendants will file an answer or response. Usually, it’s a document in which they simply deny the allegations in the complaint. I’d be stunned if they attach any affidavits. Then, the case will proceed to discovery, a long drawn out, tedious process by which each side gathers information from the other.

I’ve tried to present this material in as straightforward a manner as possible.

My personal take? I challenged the article the day it was written. I thought it was a cheap shot that lacked credibility because there were no attributed sources in support of the allegations. Today, I know little more than I did, then. However, I do know that at least 18 of the players were not the source, that 4 of the alleged victims say the events either did not happen or were misrepresented, and that the two players who did talk to Dohrmann told him that the rumors and stories he was going to report were not accurate.

The ball is now in Dohrmann’s court to prove that what he wrote was true. I await his response.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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