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MSG exec, employee refute claims by Browne Sanders

9/26/2007 - New York Knicks

NEW YORK -- A Madison Square Garden employee and executive refuted claims by Anucha Browne Sanders in her sexual harrasment suit against New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas.

Sanders, the Knicks' former vice president of marketing
and business operations, claims Thomas showered her with profanities. However, John Cudmore, a senior vice president of finance, testified on Monday that Browne Sanders was
unsparing in her own foul language to describe fellow executives.

He told a federal
jury that Browne Sanders, on numerous
occasions referred to others with the f-word and "bitch," a word
she says Thomas frequently hurled at her.

Cudmore was called as a witness by the defense as the trial
entered its third week. Late Monday afternoon, 1050 ESPN Radio's Andrew Marchand reported that Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan is expected to testify on Tuesday afternoon.

Browne Sanders is seeking millions of dollars in damages
in a sexual harassment suit against Thomas. She was hired by the
Knicks in late 2000 and was fired in January 2006, months after
complaining to MSG management that she was mistreated by Thomas.

Meanwhile, an MSG employee testified
on Monday that she had consensual sex with Knicks guard
Stephon Marbury, contradicting earlier claims by Browne Sanders.

Kathleen Decker took the witness stand in a crowded Manhattan
courtroom to try to settle for a jury what happened the night of
her birthday in 2005 when she met Marbury at a strip club and got
into the basketball star's truck.

She said she was not intoxicated when she left the club in Mount
Vernon, N.Y., intending to get a ride home with Marbury's cousin.
Instead, she encountered Marbury sitting in his truck calling out
to her.

"Stephon Marbury asked me: 'Are you going to get in the truck?'
and I got in the truck," she told the jury. Asked if the sex was
consensual, she answered, "Completely ... I was in control."

One lawyer asked her if Marbury raped her. "Never," she
responded.

The testimony came after the fired Browne
Sanders testified as part of her sexual harassment case that Decker
told her she felt no choice but to submit to Marbury's advances.

Browne Sanders had made it part of her $10 million claim in U.S.
District Court that Madison Square Garden and the Knicks did not
adequately respond to complaints of sexual harassment and abusive
language by her boss, Thomas.

Decker was called as a witness by MSG to support its arguments
that Browne Sanders was planning all along to sue Madison Square
Garden and spent time before she was fired trying to build her
case.

On cross examination, Decker, who was an intern at the time of
the incident, said her superiors made her feel that her job might
be in jeopardy after revealing the facts about the night of her
birthday.

Decker became most emotional during her half-hour on the witness
stand when she testified that Browne Sanders had been mean to her
during encounters before she described the Marbury episode.

"She told me to sit down and she started yelling," Decker
said.

In November 2005, Decker was summoned to the offices of Browne
Sanders and two other employees to describe her birthday encounter
with Marbury and his cousin as part of a probe of sexual harassment
allegations against Marbury's cousin, also an MSG employee, she
testified.

Decker said she told them the cousin had made an inappropriate
comment to her nearly a year earlier but that she did not want to
file a complaint. She added that she had an outside work
relationship with him as well.

While speaking alone with Browne Sanders in her office, Decker
described her birthday night, she said. On the witness stand, she
disputed Browne Sanders' account of the night and said she never
told anyone she regretted her night with Marbury.

"I didn't say it," said Decker, who also testified that she has since been promoted and now works
for the Garden as a community relations coordinator.

She said when Marbury later sent her a text message saying he
wanted more, she did not respond.

Marbury had testified earlier in the trial that he and Decker
had other encounters after the initial night.

Cudmore testified that Browne Sanders was unsparing in her harsh
assessment of fellow executives, ranging from a marketing executive
to the team's vice president of season ticket sales. He said the
former Northwestern basketball star called other MSG executives
buffoons and wimps and sprinkled profanities liberally.

Cudmore said he saw only cordial interactions, free of
profanities, between Thomas and Browne Sanders at several team
financial meetings.

Cudmore said Browne Sanders' annual salary was raised to
$260,000 as she was given more budgetary responsibilities in 2005.

He said she began failing at financial tasks, causing problems
at three strategic planning meetings, a quarterly forecast meeting
and two budget meetings that drew the attention of Steve Mills, MSG
Sports' president and chief executive officer.

"He was very disappointed," Cudmore recalled. "He was angry.
These were people he had hired. He was angry. He was frustrated."

On multiple occasions, Browne Sanders had failed to adequately
explain her budget and why it needed to be different from the
previous year. As a result, she failed to gain approval for the
team's budget for the next year at two separate meetings, he said.

As part of her lawsuit, Browne Sanders has asked for her job
back, saying MSG retaliated against her by firing her for speaking
out about sexual harassment.

The Garden claims she was dismissed in January 2006 for a
failure to "fulfill professional responsibilities."

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report