Former WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw is facing multiple criminal charges involving an alleged attack on the Tulsa Shock’s Jennifer Lacy. This is the 911 call regarding the alleged incident that involved the window's in Lacy's car being broken out and shots fired into the vehicle.
Former WNBA great Chamique Holdsclaw is scheduled to return to court at 9 a.m. Friday facing multiple criminal charges involving an alleged attack on the Tulsa Shock’s Jennifer Lacy. Holdsclaw, an Olympic gold-medalist (Sydney 2000) and six-time WNBA All-Star has been free on $100,000 bond and subject to ankle-bracelet monitoring and a court order prohibiting any contact with Lacy since her initial appearance two weeks ago in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta.
The charges arise out of a series of alleged incidents that began with an anonymous 911 call to Atlanta police dispatchers at around noon on Nov. 1 in Atlanta. When the still unidentified caller was disconnected, the dispatcher called back to the originating cell phone.
The 911 caller told the dispatcher that she had been an eyewitness to an altercation between Holdsclaw and her “friend,” later identified as Lacy, at a location variously described as “a McDonald’s on Northside and Hemphill,” “a McDonald’s at 14th and Northside,” or “a McDonald’s at 1105 Northside.”
Though the majority of the call is devoted to establishing the location of the alleged incident, it concludes with the caller accusing Holdsclaw of having thrown a brick at the friend’s Range Rover and dousing the vehicle with gasoline.
“The lady’s name is Chamique Holdsclaw,” said the caller when the dispatcher asked what was going on. “Her name is Chamique Holdsclaw … She’s a basketball player. She’s mentally unstable. She actually has a book about it. And she just came and threw a brick at my friend’s, um, her Range Rover. And she poured gasoline on her car.”
The caller becomes increasingly agitated as she goes on to describe the alleged incident. “But, um, they –- she –- did this, um, in front of us, and she’s been threatening me and my best friend, and I don’t know why. And this is just right near my place of business, and I can’t have anybody come to my job, because then I will lose my job. So, I, I, I’m just trying to keep this separate from my job.”
The 911 caller, who despite describing herself as an eyewitness to the incident, never mentions either a gun or a baseball bat -- two details of obvious significance to police responding to the scene –- then has an unintelligible conversation with a third party in the background, before stating, “I’m going to have to – this is her mom,” and abruptly terminating the call.
A squad car was dispatched to the McDonald's where an Atlanta police officer summarized a somewhat different account as recounted by the alleged victim, Lacy, who told the officer she was Holdsclaw’s “ex-girlfriend.”
According to the police incident report, Lacy, who had also been Holdsclaw’s former teammate when both played for the Atlanta Dream, said Holdsclaw had approached her at about noon that day, while Lacy was working out at a church on Ponce De Leon Avenue NE in Atlanta. Holdsclaw told Lacy that she needed the keys to Lacy’s car “because she had some items she needed to put in the vehicle,” Lacy told the officer, according to the police report.
But when Lacy left the church, she claimed to have smelled “an odor of gasoline inside her vehicle,” later described as emanating from a bag of clothes. Lacy also told officers she observed Holdsclaw following her. Describing herself as “scared,” Lacy claimed to have called a friend, later identified as Tameka Kee, as she drove and to have diverted to Kee’s location at 1024 Hemphill NW. The police report does not make clear whether Kee was the 911 caller who originally reported the alleged incident to police dispatchers, but it does describe Kee as a witness.
According to public records, 1024 Hemphill NW is a multifamily residential rental unit in Atlanta, roughly a tenth of a mile away from the McDonald’s the 911 caller described. It is not the home address of either Lacy or Kee, according to the contact information contained in the police report.
According to the police report, when Lacy arrived at the 1024 Hemphill location, Holdsclaw got out of her own car and “began striking Ms. Lacy’s vehicle with the bat, smashing in the driver’s side window, then breaking out the rear passenger window, behind the driver,” doing an estimated $2,000 in damage to the vehicle.
Then came the bombshell accusation that has already cost Holdsclaw an overnight stay in the Fulton County jail and could, if proven in court, cost her freedom for a good while longer: “After Ms. Holdsclaw broke out the rear window, she stuck a pistol inside the car, then shot at the other door,” then left the scene.
Criminal investigators who joined the first responder to process the scene recovered a spent nine-millimeter shell casing, which was forwarded to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, according to the police report. According to an affidavit filed with the court by Atlanta police investigator Niya Mitchell, the bullet struck the vehicle’s passenger door, and photos said to be of the crime scene show the shell casing resting in what is alleged to be the back seat of Lacy’s Range Rover.
Court documents later clarified that Lacy was seated in the driver’s seat of her car, still speaking to Kee on the phone, throughout the alleged attack, and the police report states that she was not injured in the incident.
The police report describes the alleged offense as a single count of aggravated assault/battery–gun, and despite the prior relationship between Holdsclaw and Lacy, checks “no” to “family violence.”
Those allegations were serious enough in their own right, but Holdsclaw’s legal and public relations situations grew worse overnight when at approximately 3:30 Wednesday afternoon, a Superior Court judge issued multiple warrants for Holdsclaw’s arrest, charging her with a felony count of aggravated assault with a weapon and criminal damage to property in the second degree –- both felonies -- and reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.
With the issuance of the warrants, the story hit the Atlanta press, quickly spreading nationally. By 6 p.m. Thursday evening, Holdsclaw had surrendered herself to Atlanta police, who arrested her on the outstanding warrants and delivered her to the county jail at approximately nine the same evening, according to a spokeswoman for the Fulton County sheriff. Holdsclaw spent the remainder of the night and much of the following day in jail until she could be arraigned and have bond set by a judge on Friday morning, and then be fitted with an ankle monitor.
The timing of Holdsclaw’s arrest and her overnight incarceration are unusual. While an attorney cannot ethically advise a client to evade police once an arrest warrant has been issued, most experienced criminal practitioners will arrange for a self-surrender as early in the day as possible, especially where, as here, an offense is bondable. This allows the accused time to take preliminary steps to arrange for the posting of bond prior to the surrender, as well as ensuring an opportunity for the defendant to be arraigned the same day, thereby minimizing the opportunity for an intervening jail stay, an experience that can be especially unnerving to clients who, like Holdsclaw, have no known prior criminal records.
Despite the uncustomarily late hour of Holdsclaw’s self-surrender, she could have been released by the sheriff's department Thursday evening after posting a scheduled bail of $10,000, had she been charged solely with the misdemeanor reckless conduct offense. It was the two felony aggravated assault warrants that required her first to appear before a judge and have a bond order issued. In this case, the first available hearing was not until 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 16, according to Deputy Tracy Flanagan, a spokeswoman for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department.
By the time Holdsclaw found herself in front of a judge, the charges had again multiplied, as she was charged in a criminal complaint with the five felony offenses she is now facing: aggravated assault (O.C.G.A §16-5-21), aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (O.C.G.A §16-5-21), two counts of criminal damage to property -– one in the first degree (O.C.G.A §16-7-22) and one in the second (O.C.G.A §16-7-23) -- and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (O.C.G.A §16-11-106). Holdsclaw faces a prison sentence of not less than one year in prison if she is convicted of any of the charges and as many as 60 years in state prison if convicted on all counts and if the statutory sentences were to run consecutively.
In addition, Holdsclaw, currently a resident of Smyrna, Ga., stating she was acting on advice of her attorney, declined to be interviewed by the court’s pretrial services officer, leading that officer to conclude she was a flight risk and recommend against pretrial release, because her address, date of birth and other information could not be verified. After hearing arguments from both sides, the court ruled that the conduct described in the warrant affidavits and criminal complaint supported a finding that Holdsclaw represented a danger to the community, leading to an order for bond ten times the amount initially reported by many media outlets, as well as monitoring with an ankle bracelet and a keep-away order protecting Lacy, her family and her close associates from being contacted by Holdsclaw.
The experience appears to have cost Holdsclaw’s attorney, Steven Weiner, the confidence of his client. Weiner declined repeated calls from Full Court for comment over the past week, and an associate in his office informed us last week that he had been replaced as counsel by “a famous celebrity attorney,” whose name she could not or would not provide. Though at this time Weiner remains as the only attorney to have entered an appearance for the defense in the court records, Holdsclaw is expected to have a new lawyer at her side when the appears in court Friday morning.
In what some might view as the one bright note in an otherwise increasingly gloomy picture, the District Attorney’s Office dropped one of the charges on the morning of Holdsclaw’s initial court appearance, declining prosecution on the misdemeanor reckless conduct charge. But in practice that might be yet another piece of bad news for Holdsclaw and her new defense team. Prosecutors often charge both a felony and a misdemeanor when contemplating a plea deal that would allow the accused to plead to the lesser charge. Though the misdemeanor misconduct charge can be resurrected any time before a jury is empaneled and double jeopardy attaches, taking the misdemeanor count off the table at this juncture in fact signals an increased commitment on the part of the prosecution to pursuing the more serious felony charges.
Friday’s upcoming proceedings, known in Georgia as the “All Purpose Hearing,” are expected to be ministerial in nature, according to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Though the All Purpose Hearing can include the presentation of plea deals and, when the defendant remains in custody, may also encompass a preliminary hearing in which the prosecution presents an overview of its trial evidence to the judge, who then determines whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial, neither is expected to occur this Friday.
It is also not unusual for criminal defendants, especially those free on bond, to seek postponement of the All-Purpose Hearing or at times to waive the hearing all together. But as of Wednesday afternoon, the District Attorney was still planning to move forward with the case.
“As far as we are aware, the All Purpose Calendar (APC) set for Friday is still scheduled. APC hearings are automatically set for two weeks following a First Appearance hearing and are essentially ‘case status’ proceedings,” Yvette Jones, director of public affairs for the Office of the Fulton County District Attorney told Full Court in an email Wednesday, adding that prosecutors had yet to hear from any new attorney purporting to represent Holdsclaw.
“This case is currently under investigation pending indictment. That is the status the State intends to report on Friday,” Jones added.