Rape charges dropped vs. ex-La Salle forward

PHILADELPHIA -- Sexual assault charges against former La Salle basketball player Dzaflo Larkai were dismissed Monday because his accuser, a member of the women`s team, decided not to proceed with the case on the day the trial was to begin.

Larkai, 23, was accused of raping the 19-year-old woman in April 2003. She told authorities she didn`t make a report right away because coaches discouraged her from coming forward. Assistant District Attorney James Carpenter declined to say why the woman decided against taking the matter to trial.

Larkai, a forward who attended school in England before enrolling at La Salle, declined to comment as he left the courthouse after the brief hearing. He had been charged with rape, sexual assault and other related offenses.

His attorney, Norman Hobbie, said that Larkai was relieved and is looking forward to resuming his education and college basketball career in January. He declined to name the school at which Larkai might enroll.

The woman testified during a preliminary hearing last year that she was drunk and asleep in her dormitory room when she awoke to find Larkai on top of her.

She told authorities this year that she had informed women`s coach John Miller and men`s coach Billy Hahn immediately, but declined to file charges at the urging of both.

The case, as well as another that involved two other La Salle players, ultimately led to the removal of both Hahn and Miller.

In the other case, Gary Neal, 21, of Baltimore, and Michael Cleaves, 23, of Paterson, N.J., were acquitted by a jury in November of raping a University of New Haven basketball player visiting the school in June 2004.

The woman in that case was subjected to intense questioning by defense attorneys, who contended she made up the allegation out of embarrassment after other female basketball players began to gossip.

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