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Seattle fan files complaint

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On the evening of Friday, May 5, Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone dove for a ball heading out of bounds as he's done so many times before. And just like some of those other times, he landed on several spectators sitting in the front row.

But, unlike any other time, this incident is being investigated by the Salt Lake Police Department as a possible assault.

A woman Malone landed on as he tried to keep the ball in play, filed a complaint with the department Wednesday morning. Police detectives had no comment on the investigation, but released an initial police report detailing her allegations.

In the report, Brina Sanft, a Sonics fan from Seattle, claims that "as everyone was getting up (Malone) started swearing and then hit her in the head and in the chest with his fist."

She said she was taken to a room off the floor by "risk management" and was kept there for some time, the report said.

"She asked that she be able to call the police but she was not allowed to," the report said. Sanft was allowed to return to her seat but was harassed by fans until security escorted her out of the arena, to her hotel, and she missed the second half of the game. They eventually escorted her to the airport, the report said.

Dave Allred, vice-president of public relations for the Jazz, disputed much of Sanft's claims in the report. He said Sanft did watch the remainder of the game, and Allred even offered to trade her seats. His seats are right behind the Sonics' bench and he thought she might be more comfortable there.

"She said, 'I paid for these seats and I want to sit here'," Allred recalled. "We were dang nice to her . . . I even got her two Cokes. If she was uncomfortable the second half, it was her own fault, she had the option to move to a less volatile area."

Allred said he also offered to have security escort her to her car after the game, but she declined that offer, also. He said she thanked him for his help and for "being so nice."

"I saw her 30 to 45 minutes after the game and she was just fine," he said. Allred said she never asked him if shecould call the police and denies she was detained in a room for any length of time. He did ask reporters to interview her off the court as the halftime entertainment was performing.

Malone had nothing to say about the incident after the May 5th game except that the man who sat next to Sanft held him down after he fell.

"He was holding me and didn't want me to get up," Malone said at the time.

Sanft's attorney, Jim Johanson, said Sanft waited three months to file a report because she thought the Delta Center security personnel had contacted police.

"The people at the Delta arena said that they'd take care of it," the Seattle attorney said. "All she wanted was an apology, and she never got it. Now she wants more than that."

Johanson, who was hired by Sanft about a week ago, said they were" surprised that (security personnel) didn't file a report . . . They just swept it under the rug."

Delta Center security officials were unavailable for comment Friday evening, as there was a concert underway. Malone was unavailable to respond to the allegations as he was in Park City for his annual fund raiser for the Karl Malone Foundation, which aids terminally ill children.

Allred said what happened with Malone was no different than has happened hundreds of times in hundreds of basketball games.

"We've had players go into the seats a lot of times," he said. "It's just the nature of where those seats are."

Allred said he got a copy of a video tape that captured the incident and played it for reporters numerous times after the game.

"Nobody thought it was a story," he said. A Deseret News reporter did interview Sanft immediately after the incident and a story ran in the next day's paper.

Allred said after watching the tape he couldn't imagine how Malone could have hit Sanft as he got to his feet.

"It would have been impossible," he said. "There wasn't anything intentional about what he did."

Johanson said he plans to write a "nice, friendly" letter to Malone asking for an apology and an unspecified amount of money. He said he wasn't in a position to say how much Sanft's claim is worth.

In the police report she said she is still being treated for injuries she sustained in the incident. Johanson confirmed this and said she has head and neck injuries that still bother her.

"She's also suffered emotional distress from it," he said. "Plus, she missed the remainder of the game."


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com