Former Cincinnati Bengal Elbert "Ickey" Woods testified that he did not rape or assault a Seattle woman in 1990 but submitted later to "blackmail" when he and other team members gave her $30,000 for her silence.
The woman, identified as Victoria C., claims she was raped by a group of Bengal players in a Tukwila hotel room in October, 1990. A year later, she received $30,000 from the players after signing a document, which defense lawyers contend releases the players from any liability.
Woods, testifying for the first time yesterday, said he did not see any teammates assault or rape Victoria C. that night. He said he agreed to pay her because he wanted to protect his family and his career.
"I told her in our third (telephone) conversation we would give her $30,000," Woods said in U.S. District Court, "but that she would have to sign a release. It was for our protection, in case she sued us. It was a lot of money. I felt it was blackmail, but I thought there was nothing we could do. Because we had families and careers, the best thing was to pay the money. She said `OK.' "
Attorneys for the players are trying to show a six-person jury that Victoria C. was competent when she signed the document. If the jury deems the document valid, Victoria C. likely will be prevented from pursuing her civil suit against the team and 19 former and current players, including Woods. Her suit alleges 12 players raped her, while seven others ignored her pleas for help.
Victoria C.'s attorneys are trying to show she was incompetent to understand the terms of the agreement.
Although the two-week hearing is not supposed to deal with the issue of the alleged rape, Judge Walter McGovern allowed Thomas and Woods to deny the charge because Victoria C.'s attorneys say her incompetence resulted from emotional trauma caused by the rape.
Eric Thomas, another player named in the suit, also testified yesterday that he did not rape or assault Victoria C., nor did he see anybody else rape or assault her. When asked why he agreed to pay her, Thomas said "so we could get this release drawn up, so we could get this resolved before it got out of hand. I was concerned about my career. I wanted to make sure it was not harmed."
The amount the Bengals were to pay was negotiated by Woods during three telephone conversations he had with Victoria C. in Octobter, 1991, Woods said. All three times, Woods called from Thomas' apartment because, Woods said, he did not want his wife to overhear the conversations.
Woods recalled the conversations in a deposition he gave in Cincinnati last month. This is what Woods said:
Woods was told by Victoria C. that she incurred $8,000 in medical bills and had to sell a $12,000 car to move from Seattle to Spokane. Woods asked if a payment of $20,000 would be "sufficient." Victoria C. said she did not know, that she couldn't put a price on what she went through.
In the second conversation, Woods said he and the other players involved agreed to give her $20,000 "to get this thing resolved." Victoria C. suggested $60,000.
Woods refused, reiterating that she was not raped and telling her she was not going to get that much money because many of the players shared accounts with their wives and could not spend that much money without their wives' knowledge.
In the third conversation, Woods offered Victoria C. $30,000 for signing the release document. She agreed.
Another person who testified yesterday was Victoria C.'s 14-year-old son, who described his mother as very emotional in the fall of 1991 when he moved to Spokane with her.
"She was crying all the time, doing strange things," he said. "She turned on all the lights at night. She stayed up late, take showers all the time. And she washed things all the time - caps, shoes, clothes."
The son also described what he called flashbacks his mother had. These spells lasted one to two hours, he said.
"First she spaces out and you can't talk to her," he said. "She starts shaking and rocking and yells, `Get away, stop.' Then she stops rocking and falls asleep."