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Jury acquits NBA star's wife of battery
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter
Chicago Sun-Times
March 15, 2007
A DuPage County jury on Thursday acquitted the wife of former NBA player Antonio Davis of battery — and questioned why the misdemeanor charge was filed following a 2005 traffic dispute.

Kendra Davis wiped tears from her eyes and mouthed "thank you'' at jurors as she was acquitted of hurling a cup of hot coffee at another motorist during a traffic altercation in a Naperville parking lot.

"I'm incredibly relieved,'' the 32-year-old Davis said outside the courtroom after the verdict was announced.

Earlier, Davis testified that she hadn't meant to throw coffee at motorist Kathleen Bessner after the two crossed paths in Naperville on Oct. 27, 2005. Both pulled into an intersection at the same time, then abruptly stopped near each other.

Davis testified that Bessner yelled a racial slur at her, prompting her to instinctively throw her coffee out the window towards Bessner's minivan.

"Honestly, it was just pure reaction,'' Davis testified. "I didn't think about doing that.'' Davis' claim that Bessner used a racial ephithet was backed Thursday by her 12-year-old son, Antonio Jr., who was in the car with her during the altercation.

Bessner on Wednesday denied using any slurs and contended Davis without any provocation doused her and her vehicle with the beverage.

The five-man, seven-woman jury deliberated for less than 90 minutes Thursday before determining Davis hadn't committed a crime by tossing the coffee out the window of her car. "She did not intend to hit the lady with the coffee,'' said jury foreperson Joan Shankle. But Shankle said jurors were baffled about why such a minor incident resulted in a criminal charge--and a two-day jury trial.

"It wasted the taxpayer's money,'' said Shankle. "We should never have come this far to start with.''

Kendra Davis wasn't charged with battery until more than three months had passed.

The charge was brought two weeks after her husband, then playing for the New York Knicks, rushed into the United Center stands during a Jan. 18, 2006, game against the Chicago Bulls to aid his wife, who had argued with fans sitting nearby. Antonio Davis, a former Bulls' player, received a five-game suspension for that action--which drew heavy media attention.

"I am so happy that she was found not guilty,'' Antonio Davis said as he hugged his wife outside the courthouse.

Defense attorney Kathleen Colton argued that Bessner pushed for criminal charges in hopes of boosting her chances of winning a cash settlement from Davis.

"This case is about money. It always was and it always will be,'' Colton told jurors during the trial.

Prosecutors tried to focus only on Davis' alleged actions during the traffic dispute.

"This case isn't about money, it isn't about any racial slur, it's about road rage,'' said prosecutor Johnnetta Sanks.

Bessner wasn't present during the verdict, but earlier denied she wanted a cash settlement from Davis.

Still, Bessner's attorney said she may file a civil suit in the case to clear her reputation.