For Venoy Overton, the former Washington basketball player, Thursday's arrest marked at least the third time in two years he has been investigated by police for alleged criminal conduct involving teenage girls.
For Venoy Overton, the former Washington basketball player, Thursday’s arrest marked at least the third time in two years he has been investigated by police for alleged criminal conduct involving teenage girls.
The first investigation took place in the summer of 2009, after Overton’s sophomore year at the UW, according to records produced by prosecutors and police. A 15-year-old cousin told police that Overton, then 20, sent her a profane and explicit text message saying he wanted to have sex with her, according to Seattle Police Department records.
The incident created bitter feelings within the family, with each of two factions reporting threats from the other. Overton told police the 15-year-old’s mother spoke with him on the phone and threatened to “kick his ass,” according to prosecutors’ records.
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Following an investigation by Seattle police, King County prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence to charge Overton with communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
Overton, who turned 22 last fall, was investigated by Seattle police a second time earlier this year. He wound up being charged with furnishing alcohol to two 16-year-old girls, with whom he engaged in sex acts. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar responded by suspending Overton for the Pac-10 Conference tournament; afterward, the coach allowed Overton to rejoin the team and play in the NCAA tournament.
In March, Overton cut a plea deal under which the charge, a gross misdemeanor, would be dismissed if he stayed out of trouble for a year.
The third investigation, conducted by Kent police, began in May, after officers questioned an 18-year-old they said was engaged in prostitution. The 18-year-old told police that her boyfriend — whom she identified as Overton — had given her directions about what sex acts to perform, how much to charge and how much money to turn over to him.
Overton was charged Friday with promoting prostitution, a felony punishable by up to five years. The 18-year-old told police that Overton took half what she made, saying he’d repay her “tenfold” once he started playing professional basketball. He took $100 from her first trick and used it to fill his gas tank and buy a cigar, the charging documents say.
Overton, 22, is being held in King County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail pending his June 30 arraignment.
Overton graduated from the UW this month with a degree in American Ethnic Studies. But he continues to be a source of negative publicity for the Washington basketball program and for Romar, who has received praise over the years for his ability to mentor and connect with players from a variety of backgrounds.
Texts to teen cousin
The first investigation involving Overton started when the 15-year-old relative reported receiving a series of troubling text messages from the player one night in August 2009. The teenager told her mother and police that Overton made a direct request for sex. When the teenager expressed shock, saying she was his cousin, Overton wrote back: “Cousin or not, sex is sex. I know this one cousin we got in [another city] who is fine as hell,” according to the teenager’s account.
Overton also told the 15-year-old during the text exchange that he was drunk, according to police reports.
The teenager alerted her mother the next day to what had happened. In an online exchange, the mother asked her daughter if she had deleted the messages. The daughter said yes, because: “They made me wanna cry kinda.”
The mother contacted Overton and left a voice-mail message saying she was considering notifying police. She received a call back from Overton, the mother later told a detective, in which Overton said he had “two friends ready to [beat] her up.”
The 15-year-old’s family alerted police, and Overton was interviewed by a detective four days after the original text exchange. Overton denied threatening the teenager’s mother, saying the mother had threatened him.
Overton told police it was true he had sent the text messages, but he described the exchange as a mistake. He said he believed he was sending the messages to someone else — a woman with the same first name whom he had met a couple of days earlier — and that when he realized his error, he had texted his cousin: “LOL, my bad.”
Prosecutors declined to charge Overton. In a memo saying why, a deputy prosecutor wrote that Overton’s “explanation that he texted the wrong girl seems reasonable.”
Carter Henderson, UW director of public relations, said Friday that Romar was not aware of this 2009 investigation — nor, to Henderson’s knowledge, was anybody else in the athletic department.
“How about a orgy party?”
In January of this year, Seattle police began investigating Overton after a 16-year-old girl alleged he had raped her at his sister’s apartment. Police interviewed the girl, Overton and two other people who were there that night — a friend of the girl, also 16, and a UW football player who is a friend of Overton’s.
Based upon that investigation, prosecutors declined to charge Overton with rape, saying the accuser was of legal age — in Washington, that’s 16 — and had failed “to clearly communicate a lack of consent.” Overton was charged with buying apple-flavored vodka for the two teenagers, a crime that could have netted up to a year in jail.
Overton met the 16-year-old on Facebook, according to police reports. The first personal meeting he had with the girl and her friend was at a McDonald’s near the Space Needle, following a Washington basketball game. At that get-together, Overton was direct when asked what he wanted to do that night. “I just kept it, kept it real like blunt,” he later told a detective. “I was, ‘OK, how about a orgy party?’ “
Overton was accompanied that night by two friends who have extensive criminal records, according to police reports and court records. “Both have histories of carrying firearms and assaultive behavior towards police,” one detective wrote in his report.
One of those friends — a man with a string of theft and drug charges — had a warrant out for his arrest the night of this meeting. The other friend previously had been charged with robbery, among other crimes.
Citing a law protecting the privacy rights of students, the UW has declined to release emails and other correspondence relating to its handling of the rape allegation against Overton. But records produced by prosecutors and police reveal some details.
After the UW was apprised of the investigation by a television reporter, a senior associate athletic director, Stephanie Rempe, pulled Overton out of practice and told him the news, according to police reports. Later, concerned a member of the 16-year-old girl’s family might try to hurt Overton, Rempe asked Seattle police if they could provide protection for the player. The police said no, explaining “that SPD does not routinely provide bodyguard services.”
The UW Police Department obtained a photo of a relative of the 16-year-old and distributed it to security working Washington’s home game against Arizona on Jan. 19, records show.
$3,000 from 18-year-old
In the most recent case, involving the charge of promoting prostitution, police found text messages Overton apparently sent his girlfriend while she was streetwalking, according to the prosecutors’ charging documents. One instructed her to walk sexy. Another said “go get it babe.” A third said: “Yea boy. Right when u got out they was on u.”
The teenager and Overton started their relationship in September. Overton told police that when he met the 18-year-old, he told her: “If you wanna talk to me you gotta give me some money or something.” He estimated the teenager had given him $3,000 since they met.
Quincy Pondexter, a former teammate of Overton’s who now plays for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets, said Friday in an online chat hosted by The Seattle Times:
“Being a teammate of Venoy for three years was a pretty good experience. He’s a good person, and his legal troubles of late are uncharacteristic of what type of person he is. … He’s young and he will learn from these mistakes.”
Ken Armstrong: 206-464-3730 or firstname.lastname@example.org