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updated: 7/31/2014 2:43 PM

Ex-Bull Brunson pleads not guilty to sex assault charges

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  • Eric "Rick" Brunson

      Eric "Rick" Brunson

 
 

A former Chicago Bulls player and assistant coach pleaded not guilty in Lake County court Thursday to accusations he sexually assaulted a massage therapist at a Vernon Hills fitness center this year.

Eric "Rick" Brunson, 42, of Vernon Hills, faces counts of attempted criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, aggravated battery and domestic battery, for the April 2 attack at Lifetime Fitness in Vernon Hills.

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He was ordered by Judge George Strickland to have no contact with the victim or Lifetime Fitness. Strickland also ordered the victim's name be redacted on all charging documents.

Brunson could be sentenced to 3 to 7 years in prison if he's found guilty on the most serious charge.

Defense attorney Dennis Berkson said he will "vigorously defend" Brunson against the charges, and expects to have him found not guilty. Berkson also said after the hearing he will not discuss "any specifics of this case," as he prefers to "try the case in a court of law."

Brunson, who played and coached under the name of Rick Brunson, was allowed by Strickland to leave the state for work or family issues.

According to NBA.com, Brunson played for seven teams in nine years, including two stints with the Bulls -- once during the 2002-03 season, and a second time during the 2003-04 season.

He is also a former assistant coach with the Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Bobcats, and was reportedly expected to join the Temple University men's basketball staff as an assistant coach in 2014.

Court documents say Brunson placed his mouth on the breast of the unidentified massage therapist and tried to force her to perform oral sex during an unwanted sexual advance at the fitness center.

According to a redacted Vernon Hills police report, Brunson surprised the victim when he showed up for an April 2 massage appointment made using the fictitious name of NBA Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing. The victim had previously said she did not want to massage Brunson any longer, but "reluctantly agreed to massage him" on that date since he was "already there," the police report reads.

In the massage room, the court documents stated, Brunson grabbed the victim's head and attempted to force her to perform oral sex, placed his mouth over her breast, then made contact of an insulting or provoking nature.

The victim told a friend of the attack, who told fitness center management, the police report reads. Management banned Brunson from the facility after an investigation into the claim, the report reads.

After he was banned, Brunson attempted to contact the victim via text messages and phone calls on multiple occasions, the police report states. The victim did not answer the phone calls or text messages until she threatened to obtain a restraining order, the report states.

Charges were filed against Brunson on June 25.

He is free from Lake County jail after posting the required $5,000 of his $50,000 bail. He is due back in court Sept. 9 for a case management hearing, and his trial is scheduled for Oct. 27.

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