Felony assault charge against Dante Cunningham dropped
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Dante Cunningham has spent the last four months in limbo with a domestic assault charge hanging over his head, his home fans booing him when he took the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves and several teams in need of a power forward on the free-agent market staying away while the legal process played out.
The news he was long expecting finally came down on Monday when Hennepin County authorities announced they were dropping the felony charge against him, enabling the free agent to start looking for a job next fall in earnest and start putting a difficult period behind him.
"In the deepest part of my heart, I knew what happened. I knew the situation and I knew I was going to be cleared," Cunningham told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday evening. "I was hoping that all would've been done before the season ended. But God has a plan and here I am today and just ready to go forward."
Cunningham was charged in April after he was accused of choking his then-girlfriend at their suburban Minneapolis home. The Timberwolves abided by NBA rules and continued to play him in games the rest of the season, and Cunningham routinely heard boos and heckles from the crowd about the allegations.
But Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman issued a statement on Monday saying that "based on further investigation, there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the charged offense."
"I can remember walking into the locker room at halftime and at the end of the game looking up to my right, there was a guy there," Cunningham said. "Every time he would yell, 'Cunningham I can't believe you!' You're this, you're that.
"It really hurt. It's just what it was at the time. It is what it is now. Here we are."
Cunningham spent the previous two seasons with the Timberwolves and carved a niche as a hard-nosed defensive forward with a solid mid-range jumper. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.1 rebounds last year and was paid $2.1 million in the final season of his contract. Cunningham said he had preliminary talks with a few teams once the market opened on July 1, but didn't get any firm interest while the charge was being investigated.
"No team is going to invest in a player that is going to jail. I understood that," Cunningham said. "At that time, it was tough because a lot of teams had interest, but had to sit back. Now at this point, they know the truth."
Cunningham credited his parents, his attorney and Timberwolves director of security Bob Goedderz for helping him through the situation. He also thanked the Timberwolves organization for standing behind him and said he was looking forward to getting back on the court.
"Right now I'm just really ecstatic and ready to move forward in life and continue to play," he said.© The Associated Press