The next year would have Wade named in three lawsuits and damaged by divorce-court revelations. His sparkling image was tarnished for the first time.
On July 17, 2008, Wade's former partners sued the superstar in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, claiming he had not fulfilled his marketing obligations to the restaurants. He counter-claimed that the restaurateurs had tried to cut him out of expansion plans. Nine months later, the former partners sued in federal court, citing lost clothing and memorabilia sales and seeking $90 million in damages. Wade's lead attorney, Michael Kreitzer, did not respond to emailed questions about the litigation.
But von Houtman was not content to let the drama unfold in court. Beginning in late 2008, he began firing off emails to Riley lobbying the Heat president to "influence" a settlement to the restaurant lawsuits. And in February 2009, he launched a smear campaign against the Heat superstar, meeting with reporters from the Palm Beach Post and New Times to make allegations about Wade's personal life.
The baron cast Wade as a carousing pothead and provided New Times with a loose timeline of what he calls "disturbing behavior." One anecdote included Wade and actor Jamie Foxx smoking a joint at Mansion Nightclub in Miami Beach with von Houtman tagging along. Another had the superstar trolling for waitresses at their restaurants and using a rented Brickell office as a "place for Dwyane... to bring girls to." The baron offers no evidence to back up his claims besides his own word. Photos he touts as showing Wade and rapper Trick Daddy smoking weed on a Chicago stage don't clearly show either puffing anything.
The only one of von Houtman's claims that is verifiable is the least shocking. In September 2007, Wade was driving a $400,000 Maybach in Aventura (while texting, the baron says) when he plowed into the rear bumper of an old-model Mercedes waiting at a stoplight. To keep the accident from being reported, von Houtman claims he sent the young female driver a check for the damage. The woman's mother, Reva Roiter, confirms that story.
Von Houtman says he's still owed the $6,800 he paid for the accident — a figure that represents a paltry 4 percent of Wade's per-game salary.
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."