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Ex-Bulls player's wife not guilty
Jury rules coffee incident not battery
By Art Barnum
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
March 16, 2007
DuPage County jurors did not buy prosecutors' argument that Kendra Davis, wife of former Bulls player Antonio Davis, threw coffee at a Minooka woman in a case of road rage and acquitted her Thursday of misdemeanor battery.

Kendra Davis, 32, admitted throwing the beverage at Kathleen Bessner, 41, after Bessner is alleged to have used a racial slur when the women narrowly avoided a vehicular collision in Naperville. Bessner denied the epithet or any other provocation.

Jurors deliberated 1 1/2 hours before throwing out Bessner's complaint.

"This was a waste of the taxpayers' money. The whole jury thought it never should have gotten this far," said Joan Shankle of West Chicago, jury forewoman.

During deliberations, jurors noted that there was no physical damage to Bessner or her Ford van, Shankle said. Davis "didn't intend to hit her with the coffee. ..."

After the verdict was read, Davis smiled as she mouthed a thank you to the jury.

"I appreciate that the jury could see through all this," she said. "The fact that I believe she plans to sue in civil court, I believe was a factor for the jury."

Antonio Davis said: "I'm glad for the jury decision. This type of unfortunate incident can be frustrating and scary."

Kendra Davis' attorney, Kathleen Colton, said: "The bottom line is that they jury believed Kendra. They vindicated her. I agree that it never should have gotten this far."

Bessner was not in the courthouse for the verdict. She has not filed a civil suit.

In closing arguments, Colton argued that Bessner wanted to profit from the celebrity of Davis' husband. Colton noted that the charge was filed in February 2006, more than three months after the Oct. 27, 2005, traffic incident at Naper Boulevard and Market Drive, and after an altercation between Kendra Davis and a fan at a Jan. 19, 2006, game at the United Center.

Prosecutors provided Bessner's telephone logs to show that she tried monthly after the incident to contact Naperville police about possible charges.

"This case is about money," Colton said. "It always had been and always will be."

Assistant State's Atty. Johnnetta Sanks countered that "this case isn't about money or a racial slur. It is about road rage. Vile words, which the victim categorically denies, do not create a justification for throwing hot coffee."

Davis, who is African-American, said she instinctively threw the coffee at Bessner's van after being insulted. After the near collision, Bessner allegedly said, "Don't they have stop signs in the ghetto," then yelled a racial epithet, Davis testified.

The defendant's son, Antonio Davis Jr., 12, testified Thursday that he was sitting in the rear seat of the car when he heard the racial epithet and saw his mother throw the coffee.