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Jury Backs Barkley In Suit Over Scuffle In Nightclub

Compiled From Wire Services

Charles Barkley didn’t instigate a fight at a Cleveland nightclub and won’t have to pay the man who sued him for $550,000, a jury ruled Friday.

An eight-member jury rejected the claim of a man who said the NBA star bloodied his face with a flurry of punches. The panel deliberated about 5 hours over two days.

“The damage is already done to my reputation,” Barkley said. “People are going to think I go around punching people and that’s not fair.”

Jeb Tyler, 24, a business equipment salesman from Spencerport, N.Y., said he was trying to be a peacemaker in an altercation between his friend and Barkley when the Houston Rockets forward slugged him.

Jurors said they were initially split, with three panelists for Barkley, two for Tyler and three undecided. After concluding that everyone involved was probably drunk, they ultimately decided Barkley acted in self-defense.

George Toliver resigned after nine years as an NBA referee after becoming the second official this week to plead guilty to filing false federal income tax returns. He and Jess Kersey have agreed to help with the investigation of tax fraud among referees.

Atlanta Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens, the winningest coach in NBA history, has agreed in principle to a four-year contract extension, Atlanta station WXIA-TV reported. Hawks spokesman Jon Steinberg would not confirm the report.

Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich signed a contract extension through 2001 that will pay him an average of $4.5 million per season.

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