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Wade reacted aggressively to the charges from his wife and former partner, filing libel suits against them.
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 also 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 downtown Fort Lauderdale Starbucks, 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 faxed New Times two documents he hopes prove his nobility. The first is an envelope, dated 1962 and from the British government's 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 "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."
It's Thursday, June 11, and Dwyane Wade is speaking with New Times at the Overtown Youth Center, a cheery after-school building on a desolate block, where he and Mourning are promoting the annual Summer Groove, a July event benefiting their two children's charities. He's dressed casually in a light gray button-down, navy yachting shorts, and ankle-cut Converses; a massive diamond-encrusted watch dangles from his left wrist. Sans entourage, he at first toys with the keys of a baby grand piano tucked into the corner of an empty classroom. As he sits at a desk, he looks gigantic in a room where everything is child-size.
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 less than two weeks ago against his former partner — which he has refused to discuss publicly.
"In this media-driven world, people are going to be looking for attention," Wade ruminates. "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 about the libel suit against von Houtman, he responds, "It's really pretty simple...," before Joseph interjects. "We're going to have to end this interview if you can't stay on the charity event," she says.
"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 star met President Obama at the White House for a summit on fatherhood. But it likely will be years before Wade is free from the remnants of his disastrous business partnership — and the libel suit has done little to muzzle von Houtman.
Of the hoopster's meeting with Obama, the baron complains, "The president is making a fool of himself." Then he makes several phone calls to Washington and recounts his claims to White House receptionists.