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Wife of ex-Bulls player acquitted
Jury sides with Davis in tossed coffee incident
By Christy Gutowski
Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer
Posted Friday, March 16, 2007 
The wife of former Bulls player Antonio Davis admits tossing coffee at another motorist’s minivan during a traffic dispute in Naperville.

But Kendra Davis said she reacted without thought after the woman made a racial slur and didn’t mean to splash her with the hot beverage.

A DuPage County jury believed her. After 1¨ hours of deliberations, the panel acquitted her of battery.

The 32-year-old former Naperville woman would have faced up to one year in jail and $2,500 fines if convicted of the misdemeanor. Afterward, she and her husband spoke with reporters. She described the other motorist as an opportunist trying to make a buck.

“Obviously, I’m incredibly relieved,” she said. “I’m just so appreciative the jury was able to see through this and recognize what this was.”

One juror, Joan Shankle, who served as forewoman, said she considered the trial a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“She did not intend to hurt the lady with the coffee,” the juror said. “This should never have been criminal. We all thought it should never have come this far.”

The other motorist, Kathleen Bessner, tearfully testified that Davis threw the coffee Oct. 27, 2005, after the two nearly collided in a shopping center parking lot. The coffee spattered onto her clothing.

Bessner, 41, of Minooka, vehemently denied making a racial epithet. She said the two women never spoke. She has not filed a lawsuit, but her attorney, Kevin O’Connor, said further legal action is likely.

“She would never have made that kind of a statement,” he said of Bessner. “This has turned into a kind of a circus where she (Davis) is trying to make excuses for her conduct.”

He said Bessner was speaking on her cellular phone to her fiance, Steve Berthel, during the traffic dispute and he never heard a racial slur uttered. Prosecutors did not call Berthel as a witness during the trial.

Both Kendra Davis and her 12-year-old son, who was in the car that morning, testified. She calmly told jurors she instinctively threw the coffee after Bessner said, “Don’t they have stop signs in the ghetto?” followed by the alleged racial slur.

Defense attorney Kathleen Colton argued the case was nothing more than Bessner’s attempt to make money from Antonio Davis’ celebrity status. She noted Bessner didn’t pursue charges for three months, not until after Kendra Davis made news by arguing with a fan during a Jan. 19, 2006, Bulls game at the United Center.

Regardless of whether the slur was made, prosecutors Mike O’Donnell and Johnnetta Sanks said Davis did not have a legal right to toss coffee at another person. They noted Bessner’s phone records, which showed she called police monthly after the dispute.

“This case isn’t about money or a racial slur,” Sanks said. “It is about road rage.”

Antonio Davis is retired. He attended his wife’s two-day trial, even signed autographs for fans in the court hallways.

“I am so happy that she was found not guilty,” he said. “It’s very frustrating and scary to get a phone call like I had when all this was going on.

“I always tell my wife crazy things seem to happen when I’m away. (Now that I’m retired) I told her I’m never leaving your side because I never want anything like this to happen again.”