A Washington lawyer says he believes he is the father of basketball star LeBron James, and he has filed suit in federal court alleging a scheme to cover up paternity.
In a complaint filed June 23, Leicester Bryce Stovell says he has been trying to determine paternity since 2007, at one point taking a DNA test in Cleveland. He alleges that the test results were falsified and that James; his mother, Gloria James; and his attorney have prevented further attempts to settle the issue. The complaint was first reported Wednesday on the website TMZ.
The complaint (PDF) alleges that Gloria James threatened Stovell and committed fraud and misrepresentation in an effort to conceal the identity of James’ father. It also alleges that she and LeBron James have defamed Stovell’s character, quoting LeBron James as saying publicly, “I want to be a better father than mine was.”
“I recently have concluded that a comprehensive, sophisticated and well-funded effort might well have been underway for quite some time, perhaps beginning in its present form as early as when Defendant LeBron James was in high school, to frustrate identification of his real father, and that there is a likelihood that the father in question is me,” the complaint reads.
Gloria James, who had LeBron when she was 16, told ESPN The Magazine in 2002 that her son’s father is a man named Anthony McClelland. According to the complaint, James’ attorney, Frederick Nance, told Stovell that a DNA test has eliminated McClelland as the father.
In the complaint, Stovell contends that he met Gloria James at a Washington bar and restaurant in mid-March 1984, when she was visiting from Ohio. They had sex once, and she told him months later that she was pregnant with a boy she planned to name LeBron, seemingly after “Leicester Bryce,” according to the complaint.
The complaint asks for millions in damages.
A message left with Nance was not immediately returned. He is a partner in the Cleveland office of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey.
In a telephone interview today and in the complaint, Stovell said he decided to file suit after considering other options, researching the legal issues involved, and identifying potential witnesses. A solo practitioner, he filed the complaint pro se.
Asked about the explosive nature of the complaint given James’ fame, Stovell said, “Skepticism under circumstances like this is not an unusual response at all. I have prepared myself for a certain measure of skepticism, particularly if someone has not read the complaint.”
But, he added, “I think it’s possible to persuade a group of reasonable people that my position is completely appropriate under the circumstances.” He said he expects to request a new paternity test as part of discovery.
Stovell filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He is a former lawyer for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who filed a racial discrimination claim against the agency in 1999. The case was settled in 2002 when the SEC agreed to pay him $230,000 but not admit fault, according to a court filing (PDF). Stovell said he now works primarily as a consultant on securities and financial regulatory issues.
TMZ first reported the complaint yesterday as James was preparing to decide where to play next season. He is scheduled to announce his decision on national television at 9 tonight.
Stovell said that he’s been getting calls from reporters in the past day, but that he had not anticipated much interest because, he said, the media usually ignores such stories. “There seems to be a shield surrounding issues like this, with respect to LeBron,” he said.