In the aftermath of last week’s “LeBromination,” where we witnessed the Miami Heat become the basketball power equivalent of the SuperFriends, this was the response from a colleague of mine to a related story gaining steam in the media:
“Yeah, and I’m Shaq’s uncle.”
The last two weeks have been quite a whirlwind for Leicester Bryce Stovell. As first reported by TMZ, and followed by a slew of other media outlets (including this video from Headline News), Stovell claims that he is the biological father of basketball star LeBron James. In making his claim, he did what any of us would have done: he sued his son and baby’s mama (Gloria James) for $4 million dollars.
Sounds a bit sketchy, right? After he was named our Lawyer of the Day last Friday, I decided to reach out to Stovell for an interview with Above The Law. It turns out that the former SEC lawyer currently works as a contract attorney here in DC, which means we are practically brothers, in a non-DNA-test sort of way.
Stovell gave me some frank, interesting answers — along with a startling revelation….
Before I continue, I urge readers to take a look at the complaint. It’s well worth reading Stovell’s version of the facts in order to understand the context for this interview. Stovell also constantly refers people to his complaint on his Facebook page, where he is gaining notoriety.
According to the complaint, Leicester Stovell met Gloria James at a Washington nightclub called DC Space in 1984, when Ms. James was visiting D.C. from Ohio. At the time, Stovell was a 29-year-old lawyer, and James was 15, although according to Stovell, she told him she was in her early twenties. After some conversation, they left the club together, and Stovell took her (and his “talents”) back to his home in Annadale, Virginia. From what he alleges in the complaint, he gave her a night to remember.
Let’s start with the actual night you and Gloria James met. In your complaint, you seem to have no problem stating that you felt your performance was unsatisfactory during your one night stand with her. You even apologize to her several times, and refer to it as possibly being “incomplete.” What did you mean by incomplete?
Well, that gets into details I would rather not discuss —
But incomplete sort of implies that the act itself never came to completion.
Oh, I understand now. The act itself did not preclude conception.
I am sure you have done the research on this already, but since you were 29 and she was 15 at the time of your encounter, you have basically admitted to statutory rape. Is there some sort of statute of limitations that has lapsed on that?
I have no comment.
[Ed. note: One thing I noticed about Stovell in this interview is that he is not dumb. His answers were very measured and purposeful. I have no doubt that he has done his homework on this issue. If there is a Virginia attorney out there who can provide some clarity here, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.]
Gloria James returned to D.C. two months later, in June 1984. Stovell recalls meeting James again at DC Space during that time. After some small talk, they ended up at Stovell’s new downtown apartment. There, James revealed that she was pregnant, although Stovell said she was not showing. She also told him that she “knew the child” was a boy.
Stovell: I found the whole thing perplexing overall as to how she would know that.
In the complaint, you put a lot of emphasis on the name LeBron. You had first thought that Gloria James was going to name her child based on your first two initials, “LB” (for Leicester Bryce). She claims the name came from a friend of her cousin’s. You asked her for the spelling of the name, whether it’s “LaBron” or “LeBron,” and even made the comment, “Well, if he’s mine, make sure he plays basketball.” In fact, you say in your complaint, “LeBron James, a basketball player from Ohio. That should be easy to remember.”
With all that said, when LeBron James was gaining national notoriety in 2003 for playing basketball in Ohio, didn’t anything trigger your memory at that time?
I think that is a fair question. Just hearing LeBron’s name in 2003 did not trigger my memory. That is what I was trying to emphasize in the complaint. I couldn’t believe I was actually able to recall that line — “LeBron James, a basketball player from Ohio. That should be easy to remember.” — a few years later.
Stovell was not able to recall these facts until 2006, when a female acquaintance prodded him as to whether he had a son at Cornell. “Are you sure?” she persisted.
If someone was certain you had a son at Cornell, didn’t that also signal to you that if someone at Cornell looked like your son, don’t sometimes people just look like other people?
Yes, but I also have facts on my side that would give credence as to what I am saying.
Eventually, Stovell contacted Fred Nance, managing partner of the Cleveland office of Squire Sanders Dempsey LLP and the attorney for LeBron James. This led to the most stunning revelation so far: The man previously identified by Gloria James as LeBron’s father, Anthony McClelland, is NOT his biological father. In fact, no father is listed on LeBron’s birth certificate, which is attached in the complaint.
Stovell: “I was told by Mr. Nance that Mr. McClelland had been DNA tested, and the test excluded him from being the father. If you need more evidence of that, they tested me. Why would they have tested me if they already knew who the father was?”
Nance eventually puts Gloria James on a three-way call with Stovell for “due diligence” purposes. It’s obvious that she was thrilled to have possibly found LeBron’s father.
Under 28, in the complaint, she says “If you continue with this I will have you harmed, professionally and even physically.”
It’s clear that Gloria James did not want this test to go forward; however, LeBron James agreed to go through with it, which eventually excluded you as the father. Why would LeBron agree to a paternity test if he intended to simply tamper with the results?
Well, you are asking me to speculate. I would think 1) If he knew what the result of the test would be, 2) To persuade me that I am not the father.
But other than the fact that the DNA sample they took from you was left alone in your presence for five minutes, do you have any other proof of tampering?
It’s a circumstantial proposition. There are ways of tampering if you have the resources and the motivation, and I think they possess both the resources and motivation.
After you had doubts about the test, you attended a Washington Wizards game in DC when they were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers. You contacted LeBron’s lawyer to let him know that you would be sitting right behind the Cavalier bench. Can you see how that could have “weirded him out,” so to speak?
That is why I contacted his attorney ahead of time, so he knew that I would be there. And he knew I was there, because we both were watching each other closely. I do wish he had come over to introduce himself. I guess it’s possible we “weirded” each other out.
You know how this must look. You are claiming to possibly be LeBron’s father and you’re suing him and his mother for –
Listen, there are damages in this case. It is ill advised for me to just drop those damages when they do exist. Look at the fact pattern. There are people that would tell you that $4,000,000 may be conservative.
So then just a paternity test would not be enough for you in this suit?
I didn’t say that either. A paternity test would be of some significance.
Why did you decide to file this suit now? Was it because LeBron is the object of the media’s focus due to his free agency status?
I can’t comment on that since I would be disclosing privileged information.
As a contract attorney, do you think all this new publicity will hinder your ability to be hired for projects?
I don’t know. I know the more attention you draw to yourself as a contact attorney is never a positive thing. To be honest, I can’t say that I am optimistic.
I believe that you believe you are LeBron’s father. It’s clear from your Facebook page, your efforts in the media, and of course this lawsuit that this issue is very important to you. If another paternity test is granted under the conditions you want, and it comes up negative again, how will that make you feel?
Way too speculative. We are still so far away from that that I have little idea how I would feel. Anything I say now would be inaccurate. I would hope that the rights of the respective parties are balanced to the extent they can be in a court of law.
Well, I guess it’s reasonable to say I would have a sense of closure.
UPDATE (9/15/11): Here’s how the case was resolved.
Gabe Acevedo is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and the owner of the e-discovery blog, GabesGuide.com. He also writes on legal technology and discovery issues for Above The Law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.