Niece confident Givens not guilty

July 04, 2004|JILL ERWIN

Emily Thompson couldn't believe the news when she heard sexual assault charges were being pressed against her uncle, former Kentucky basketball player Jack "Goose" Givens.

The Danville resident said Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's rape trial has opened a new world of litigation against athletes in high-profile positions. But Thompson said she was stunned when she heard who was pressing the charges against Givens.

"I always knew something was going to happen to someone, and I always considered Jack high-profile, but not in this way," Thompson said. "Not someone who was so close to him, someone who is his friend. He taught that girl, he tried to help her, and it was really an abomination."

Givens was arrested Monday in Orlando, Fla., on sexual battery and lewd molestation charges for his alleged conduct with a 14-year-old girl to whom he was giving basketball lessons. Givens is accused of inappropriately touching and fondling the girl, according to an arrest affidavit.


Thompson, who moved to Danville a month ago after growing up in Lexington, finds that hard to believe.

"The person I know would never even have these charges brought against him," Thompson said. "The person I know is the most angelic man I know of."

Givens is married to Thompson's aunt, Linda. The Givenses have a daughter, Jaimie, and a son, Jeremy.

Family members have been in contact with Givens

Thompson said neither she nor her father, John, have spoken to Givens since the charges were brought. But she has spoken with family members who have been in contact with Givens, and the word is exactly as she would expect.

"Several people have spoken with Jack and Linda, and what we got from them was just that it wasn't true," Thompson said. "That's exactly what we expected to hear. It's just not possible with his personality and his character and the way he's lived his life. It would have come up before and never has. Growing up I trusted him completely."

Thompson remembers going to Givens' house for cookouts when she was growing up, visiting him once a week and doing "family things" as she put it.

Givens has spent the last 15 years as a television commentator for the NBA's Orlando Magic. Thompson knew her uncle was well-known in Lexington after scoring 41 points in the 1978 NCAA championship game against Duke, but she said his notoriety was something she had to adjust to.

"It was such a hard time for me when we'd be at Disney World walking along, and you'd see everybody approach him like, 'Hi, Mr. Givens,' and I felt pretty sure Jack had never seen them before," Thompson said. "It was hard to get used to that aspect of him having a celebrity profile in some circles. It didn't really strike me because he never had that la-dee-da snobby attitude. It's just not him."

Girl's grandmother was at home durinig alleged activity

The affidavit said the girl's grandmother was at home during the alleged activity and placed two calls to the girl's mother at work to report what she thought was inappropriate behavior while Givens and the girl were in the pool. Later, the affidavit said, Givens went into the girl's bedroom, where she was changing her clothes, before the grandmother called the girl out of the room.

Thompson said if something illegitimate were happening, the grandmother should have had stronger actions.

"If a person is trying to commit adultery, especially with a child, they would not do it with a family member in the house," Thompson said. "They say he walked in the bedroom right behind her, but he's not some puppy just following her for something. I can tell you that if I thought that one of my friends or kids' friends was being molested, I can guarantee I would be a little more defensive than just asking the guy to leave the room. I think that's not the kind of take you put on someone who's hurting a grandchild."

The crime allegedly occurred on June 18, but it was not reported until June 23.

"I think it's very skeptical. If someone was really out to get this 14-year-old girl, I assume that she would have been a little more proactive about telling than waiting for five days," Thompson said.

Thompson firmly believes her uncle is not guilty of the charges. She said the man she knows isn't capable of doing the things he is accused of. But she also said that if the charges are proven, then she will have to take a closer look at the man she's known.

"If it turns out to be true, I will be the first one to question a lot of things," Thompson said. "Based on the life he's lived, the person he is, the way he has raised his children under his morals and his house, it's just not fitting. He's a very Christian man, and that's written all over his face.

"He's very open, very loving, and he's been more than a role model for me. For me to think that something like this happened ... It's not just that I'm biased because he's my uncle, but he is a good man."

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