U.S.

Federal lawsuit accuses NY Knicks owner James Dolan of sexual assault

Dolan's attorney disputed the allegations, claiming the suit was "an act of retaliation" and there is "absolutely no merit."

New York Knicks owner James Dolan, center, watches the first half of an NBA basketball game.
New York Knicks owner James Dolan, center.
Mary Altaffer/AP
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A woman has alleged that New York Knicks owner James Dolan sexually assaulted her a decade ago and then set her up to be molested by now-imprisoned film producer Harvey Weinstein, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles.

In 2013, plaintiff Kellye Croft was a 27-year-old licensed massage therapist working on a tour for The Eagles. Dolan's band, JD & The Straight Shot, opened for the rock band. Dolan, then 58, allegedly used his power and influence on the tour to repeatedly manipulate and pressure Croft “to submit to sex with him,” the lawsuit states.

The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they were sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly or consent to being identified, as Croft has done.

When the tour traveled to Los Angeles, Dolan flew Croft there even though almost no tour members signed up for massage appointments, the lawsuit states. Dolan then continued to “sexually exploit” her and orchestrated a seemingly random meeting between Croft and Weinstein, a friend of his, in a hotel elevator in early 2014, the suit alleges.

Law that launched thousands of sexual abuse suits is about to expire
Law that launched thousands of sexual abuse suits is about to expire

Law that launched thousands of sexual abuse suits is about to expire

For the last year, people have been able to sue individuals and organizations in New York for alleged sexual assaults that took place a long time ago.

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Weinstein offered her opportunities to work on film sets, according to the lawsuit, and changed into a loosely tied bathrobe in his suite and asked Croft to give him a massage.

She felt uncomfortable and left the suite, but Weinstein, still in the bathrobe, followed her, the suit charges. He forced his way into her hotel room and sexually assaulted her, the lawsuit states. When she told Dolan of the alleged attack, he neither seemed surprised nor offered to help her report the assault to police, she alleges.

Croft alleges that Dolan knew about Weinstein’s misconduct toward women and told her “we all know” that Weinstein “has problems.”

“Indeed, with his comments, Ms. Croft felt that Dolan completely dismissed the gravity of the situation and did not truly care about what his friend had done to her,” the suit states.

Dolan was a member of the board of directors for Weinstein’s film production company for about a year between 2015 and 2016.

Douglas Wigdor, the attorney representing Croft, has been the lawyer for multiple lawsuits against Weinstein and Dolan, including a 2017 proceeding where the sports executive was named in a suit against members of the board that alleged they were aware of Weinstein’s conduct toward women but did not try to stop it.

Dolan's attorney, E. Danya Perry, on Tuesday called Croft's complaint “an act of retaliation” by Wigdor, who disputed the characterization.

“It is time to finally hold Dolan accountable for his outrageous conduct," Wigdor said in a statement.

Croft, now 38, is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

“I have suffered so profoundly because of what James Dolan and Harvey Weinstein did to me years ago, and it was not an easy decision to come forward and seek justice," she said in a statement. “But for me, to truly address my trauma, I need to seek accountability.”

Dolan, as executive chairman of Madison Square Garden Sports Corp., heads the NBA’s Knicks and NHL’s Rangers. Perry said there is “absolutely no merit” to Croft's allegations and references to Weinstein are “simply meant to inflame.”

“Kellye Croft and James Dolan had a friendship,” Perry said in a statement. “Bottom line, this is not a he said/she said matter and there is compelling evidence to back up our position. We look forward to proving that in court.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did not comment specifically on the allegations Tuesday, saying he had only read news stories about the lawsuit, "so we’ll stand by and wait to find out more information.” As commissioner, Silver has broad powers to act in instances of wrongdoing.

Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year sentence for a rape and sexual assault conviction in New York that is under appeal. The disgraced movie mogul also was found guilty in 2022 in Los Angeles and later sentenced to 16 years for the rape and sexual assault of an Italian actor and model known at the trial as Jane Doe 1. The Los Angeles case is also under appeal.

His attorney on Tuesday dismissed Croft's assertions.

“Mr. Weinstein vehemently denies these meritless allegations and looks forward to litigating these claims in a court of law where the truth will be revealed,” lawyer Jennifer Bonjean said in a statement.