Members of a street gang are facing charges in court this week in the 2008 beating of a man who claimed he had a sex tape of Shaquille O'Neal and that the former NBA star was behind the attack.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigated the claims in 2009. Phone records showed a "flurry of calls" between the man who allegedly led the attack and O'Neal's business partner Mark Stevens around the time of the incident, the Times reported.
O'Neal and Stevens denied any involvement and have not been charged or named in a criminal complaint, the newspaper said.
O'Neal retired from pro basketball this year after 19 seasons in the NBA. He has also released four rap albums and starred in a pair of reality TV shows.
Robert Ross reported being beaten in 2008 but details of the case only became public this week in court where seven members of the Main Street Crips face kidnapping, robbery, assault charges.
The Times reported that Ross told investigators in 2008 that he believed O'Neal was behind the attack because of a business deal gone bad and because O'Neal believed he had the sex tape. Ross later told police he was "bluffing" about the tape.
Ross had introduced a rapper to the record label belonging to O'Neal and Stevens with the expectation that he'd reap some of the future profits, according to the Times, but the relationship soured after the pair allegedly cut Ross out of the deal.
It was after the deal went south, the report said, that Ross mentioned the tape to a friend he had in common with O'Neal and Stevens.
Investigators spoke with O'Neal in September 2008 in a locker room at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California, the Times reported. Citing the sheriff's report, the newspaper said O'Neal "adamantly denied" any involvement in the attack and said the release of a sex tape wouldn't bother him because he and his wife were pursuing a divorce.
The Times reported O'Neal admitted meeting some members of the Main Street Crips during charity events, but that the relationships did not extend beyond those introductions. He also told investigators he had previously severed ties with Ross because of an unrelated criminal case Ross was facing.
Attorney Nicholas Tonsich, who represented O'Neal, did not respond to an Associated Press call for comment.
Ross, a music promoter, testified during a preliminary hearing in the case on Tuesday that he told O'Neal about the tape during a business dispute some two weeks before his abduction, Los Angeles County District Attorney's spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
"What the victim testified to is that while he was being beaten they asked for the tape back," Robison said.
The criminal complaint charges the seven suspects with abducting Ross at gunpoint on February 11, 2008.
Rolex watch The men then allegedly ordered him to drive his Rolls Royce to the home of defendant Ladell Rowles, who prosecutors say is a leader of the gang, where he was beaten and robbed of a Rolex watch, diamond jewelry and $15,000 in cash.
Ross took the witness stand on Monday in the first day of the preliminary hearing in which a Los Angeles Superior Court judge will determine if there is enough evidence to order that the defendants stand trial.
Rowles and his six co-defendants are charged with kidnapping, robbery, assault with a firearm and conspiracy.
The preliminary hearing has been recessed until July 6.