HOUSTON — Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill was sentenced to one year of probation Thursday after pleading no contest to assaulting his former girlfriend in February.
Hill, 25, will also have to pay a $500 fine, undergo domestic-violence counseling, make a $100 donation to the Harris County Violence Fund and avoid any contact with the alleged victim, Darlene Luna. The assault charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor before 339th District Criminal Judge Maria Jackson.
Hill, a former star at University of Arizona, was charged with assaulting Luna on Feb. 29 at his apartment in Houston while the former first-round draft pick was playing for the Rockets.
Flanked by attorney Gloria Allred, Luna sobbed on the witness stand and said Hill hit her legs with his fists, then pulled her off a couch and put her in a chokehold from behind. The two had been dating for about a year and a half, Luna said, and the assault came as a shock because Hill had never previously abused her.
By pleading no contest, Luna said Hill was avoiding taking responsibility for what he did. She said she delayed reporting the incident to police to protect Hill’s professional career. Hill was formally charged in March.
The 6-foot-10 Hill wore a white shirt, gray slacks and a purple and green striped tie to court on Thursday. He’s represented by high-profile attorney Rusty Hardin, who successfully defended Roger Clemens in his recent perjury trial.
Hardin said Luna’s statement distorted the facts and was nothing more than grandstanding by Allred, well known for representing Nicole Brown Simpson’s family during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
“I’ve got to tell you, anybody experience in the criminal justice system would’ve been disgusted with what happened today,” Hardin said. “You have this deal where the publicity-seeking lawyer is hovering about her on the stand, and hugging her and giving her Kleenexes. Give me a break.”
Hill played for Houston from February 2010 until March, when he was traded to Los Angeles. He was the eighth overall pick out of Arizona in the 2009 draft by New York but never panned out for the Knicks or Rockets. He played in only 32 games for Houston in the 2011-12 season, averaging five points and 4.8 rebounds and 14.7 minutes per game.
Hill averaged 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in seven games for the Lakers last season, and he signed a two-year, $8 million contract in July. NBA teams begin their preseason practices next week.
After Luna spoke, Allred handed Hardin a letter stating her intention to file a civil lawsuit. Hardin read the letter and shook his head.
“Jordan simply wanted to put this behind him to play basketball,” Hardin said. “The alternative is to have this be pending until the season is over and have a trial sometime next year.”
Allred called Hill’s no-contest plea a “first step.”
“We hope that Mr. Hill will learn that an assault on a woman is always wrong and can result in criminal prosecution of him and serious consequences for his victim,” she said. “We think that the time is long overdue for him to be fully accountable for his misconduct and we are glad that he has taken the first step by entering a plea today.”
Luna has lived in Los Angeles for eight years. Hardin wasn’t sure if any civil lawsuit would be filed in Houston or Los Angeles.