A California woman was criminally charged Thursday after authorities said she told her basketball athlete daughter to “hit her” before the girl punched an opposing player in the head during a game.
The punch was allegedly thrown last month as two club teams played during a tournament in the city of Garden Grove near Los Angeles.
Latira Shonty Hunt was caught on cell phone video yelling “you better hit her for that” after her daughter fell to the ground on a previous play involving the victim, said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.
The girl who threw the punch is the daughter of former Chicago Bulls player Corey Benjamin, who issued an apology shortly after he saw the video of the game.
The blow crumpled the 15-year-old victim “to the floor like a rag doll,” Spitzer said. The girl suffered a concussion, according to her family’s lawyer.
Hunt, 44, is charged with two misdemeanors: contributing to the delinquency of a minor and battery. She faces up to a year in jail if convicted, Spitzer said.
Benjamin was not at his daughter’s game, but the former NBA player told NBCLA that when he saw the video, he was saddened.
"This is not how I raised my daughter," he said.
"As a father, I’m shocked and disappointed at my daughter’s behavior as this is not a reflection of the values and standards that my family holds," he said, in part. "Nor does it exemplify the values, character and spirit of sportsmanship that the game of basketball requires. My daughter made a mistake. One that she will need to make right. I am committed to getting my daughter any help she may need and support her in taking accountability for her conduct."
Benjamin was selected by the Bulls in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft, and played for the team until 2003.
Kevin Hahn, an attorney representing the victim, Lauryn Ham, said this is about more than one teenager hitting another player during the game in Garden Grove.
Hahn said the family is “pleased with the DA’s decision to charge the mother. We think it’s warranted given the facts.”
Richard Kaplan, a Los Angeles defense attorney not involved with this case, called the charges against Hunt “a stretch.”
Kaplan predicted that it will be difficult for prosecutors to prove that Hunt’s outburst was a command and not just “an emotional response in a heated moment.”
If prosecutors are unable to prove that Hunt has a history of similar behavior, Kaplan said a judge might choose to dismiss the case and order Hunt into a diversion program, such as anger management classes.
“Obviously it was an inappropriate thing to say, but was it really intended to cause harm?” Kaplan asked.