By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
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By Michael E. Miller
For a time, those allegations were overshadowed by claims from Siohvaughn. The superstar's wife had filed for divorce and in January 2009 accused him of cheating on her, infecting her with an unspecified STD, and — perhaps the biggest blow to the former Father of the Year — abandoning his children. "His failure to spend time with them... has resulted in the children at times being afraid of him," she claimed in papers filed in Miami-Dade Family Court. "In fact, Zion... does not recognize or know Dwyane... and has cried uncontrollably the few times that Dwyane has attempted to hold him in his hands."
Dwyane Wade reacted aggressively to the charges from his wife and former partner, filing libel suits against both.
After Siohvaughn withdrew her claims, Wade dropped the suit against her. But the libel claim against the baron continued; it hinged on the emails sent to Riley, which had become increasingly inflammatory. "Behind closed doors, Mr. Wade is a bully and a coward," von Houtman wrote March 15. "He and most of your Heat players are smoking, using cocaine and steroids. I wonder how and why the Heat organization can condone such behavior... Is it just about selling tickets?"
He ended the email, which he sent to the home of Heat owner Micky Arison, with a flourish: "The Miami Heat: 'Drugs, Sex, & Basketball.' "
"[Von Houtman's] scheme," the libel complaint alleges, "is to contact Mr. Wade's employer... for the purpose of communicating false statements... [Von Houtman's] motive: In order to cease from any further wrongful contacts, Mr. Wade should pay him an undisclosed sum of money."
When he first learned, through a New Times reporter, of the lawsuit, von Houtman was wedged into a table at a Starbucks in downtown Fort Lauderdale, swishing a tiny coffee around with thick fingers. His blue eyes widened, but not with fear. Defending his claims, he said, will allow him to shovel more dirt on Wade in the public record. "I have been waiting for Dwyane to come after me like this," he cooed. "I will annihilate him."
But there is one aspect of the lawsuit that truly concerns him: the dismantling of his use of the title "baron." "There is no evidence or history of nobility in the von Houtman family," Wade claims.
Von Houtman faxes New Times two documents he hopes prove his nobility. The first is an envelope, dated 1962 and from the British War Office, to a "Baron Houtman" — his father, Jack, he says. The second is a 1971 letter to Richard from the German Embassy in London assuring him that "every descendant of... a Baron would be called Baron or Baroness."
"It's ridiculous that I have to prove it," he laments. "I've been a baron all my life."
This is a summer of great consequence for Wade. He and Riley have already begun a public back-and-forth concerning his contract, which expires in 2010. Negotiations in the next couple of months could decide whether Wade remains in Miami for the long term. And then there's the libel suit he filed against his former partner less than two weeks ago — which he has refused to discuss with the media.
"In this media-driven world, people are going to be looking for attention," Wade ruminates during an interview with New Times. "And what better way to get it than to attack somebody who has the fame? But the truth always prevails... Once [it] comes out, you're going to be hurt more than me."
As the interview progresses, Wade's watchful publicist, Lisa Joseph, sits down beside him. When the superstar is asked to speak explicitly on the libel suit against von Houtman, he responds only, "It's really pretty simple... " Then Joseph interjects: "We're going to have to end this interview if you can't stay on the charity event."
"Leave the personal personal," continues Wade. And the talk returns to permitted grounds.
Will von Houtman prevail? Probably not. Eight days after this interview, the Heat player met President Obama at the White House for a summit on fatherhood. But Wade likely won't be free of the remnants of his disastrous business partnership for years — and the libel suit has done little to muzzle von Houtman. Of the hoops star's meeting with Obama, the baron complains: "The president is making a fool of himself." Then he makes several calls to Washington, recounting his claims to White House receptionists.