Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri won’t face criminal charges in California stemming from a physical dispute over credentials with a sheriff’s deputy after the last game of the NBA Finals earlier this year.
Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick confirmed Tuesday that after a months-long investigation into the June incident in Oakland, prosecutors had decided not to charge Ujiri and instead suggested the two sides settle their dispute through mediation.
Ujiri met Monday with a member of the District Attorney’s office and the Raptors president’s local California lawyers. No one from Alameda County Sheriff’s office participated.
The meeting “focused on matters that we believe merited constructive, structured mediation and conflict resolution and were better handled in a setting outside of the courtroom,” Drenick wrote in an e-mail. She declined to offer more details.
Ujiri’s California lawyer Robert Beles, who has represented the Raptors president since shortly after the incident, described the Monday afternoon mediation in Oakland as a “friendly meeting” between the District Attorney’s office and Ujiri to close the lengthy investigation that involved interviewing several witnesses and reviewing videotaped footage of the altercation.
“That was the very final leg or part of the investigation was meeting with Masai himself,” Beles said in a phone interview. “There are no conditions on him whatsoever. It’s just go in peace and that’s the end of the investigation.”
The decision not to charge Ujiri lifts a cloud that has hung over the Raptors’ historic NBA championship since an altercation broke out between Ujiri and an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy after the Raptors’ title-clinching game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on June 13.
As Ujiri tried to make his way to a trophy ceremony on the court, the sheriff’s office claimed that Ujiri flashed his NBA-issued credentials backwards while making his way past the officer, who was working security, shoving him aside. The officer then pushed back and asked for Ujiri’s badge and a shoving match allegedly ensued. Ujiri identified himself as the Raptors president, but the sheriff’s office says he was not wearing the yellow armband and purple badge needed to get on the court for the trophy celebrations.
The Globe and Mail viewed still images derived from footage captured by the deputy’s body camera and security video at Oracle Arena showing Ujiri with his arms raised toward the deputy. However, the sheriff’s office declined to play the full videos, which it said could interfere with the investigation. Four witnesses who spoke to The Globe said they did not see Ujiri strike the deputy’s face.
Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, an elected official, had requested Ujiri be charged with battery of a peace officer, a misdemeanour punishable by up to a year in jail and a US$2,000 fine, alleging that Ujiri struck the deputy’s jaw and shoulder.
“The District Attorney’s office have their own criteria for figuring out whether they are or are not going to charge a crime. And I don’t know what they did or didn’t do. And it is not really determinative of what actually took place,” said the deputy’s lawyer, David P. Mastagni. He declined to discuss whether the deputy was still weighing whether to pursue a lawsuit against Mr. Ujiri.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s office declined to comment Tuesday night.