Ex-Redskin Wilkinson to face jury in lawsuit

Friday, March 31, 2006

A lawsuit accusing a former Washington Redskins star of misleading a developer during a failed business venture three years ago will go to trial, a federal judge in Maryland ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett refused to toss out the charges against Dan ‘‘Big Daddy” Wilkinson, which are outlined in a civil lawsuit filed more than two years ago by Capital Centre LLC.

The suit alleges that Wilkinson, 33, a five-year starter on the Redskins defensive line and the first pick in the 1994 NFL draft, deceived Capital Centre and is personally liable for breaching a lease to build a restaurant at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, a 55-acre retail complex in Largo. The suit seeks $31.5 million in damages.

Bennett rejected Wilkinson’s counterclaim of $50 million in damages and ruled Wilkinson could not seek damages because he violated a court order regarding evidence.

Lawyers for both sides could not be reached for comment. A publicist for the Detroit Lions, for whom Wilkinson has played the past three years, said Wilkinson was training on his own and was unavailable.

Capital Centre LLC is a joint endeavor of the Baltimore development firm Cordish Co. and Washington Sports & Entertainment, the corporate face of Abe Pollin’s majority ownership of the Washington Wizards basketball team and the Verizon Center. Capital Centre LLC leases the Boulevard at the Capital Centre.

At issue in the case is whether Wilkinson is personally liable for any damages suffered by Capital Centre as a result of defaulting on the lease.

The plaintiff accuses Wilkinson of illegally using a fictitious entity, Dandar Enterprises LLC, as the guarantor of the lease, Bennett wrote. Wilkinson maintained that the entity is actually Dandar Enterprises Inc., and Capital Centre representatives copied the wrong name.

‘‘This particular dispute may prove significant because, if it is resolved in Capital Centre’s favor by the trier of fact, then it suggests that Wilkinson’s alleged disclosure of Dandar Enterprises LLC during precontractual negotiations was not a simple mistake,” Bennett wrote.

A deciding factor may be the solvency of Dandar at the time the lease was signed, Bennett wrote. Capital Centre claimed Wilkinson said ‘‘Dandar Enterprises LLC” had a net worth of $13 million in May 2003, but Wilkinson acknowledged ‘‘Dandar Enterprises Inc.” had no assets at that time. Wilkinson testified he was unaware of an entity called ‘‘Dandar Enterprises LLC.”

Wilkinson and Capital Centre LLC agreed in June 2003 to lease about 9,143 square feet at the shopping center to build the restaurant, Bennett wrote. A Big Daddy Joint LLC — an entity run by Wilkinson — signed on as the tenant, and Capital Centre was the landlord.

In July 2003, Wilkinson was cut by the Redskins after refusing to take a pay cut, and he signed with the Lions the following month.

Wilkinson missed a deadline to submit construction plans and then tried to have the lease terminated, but the lender refused, Bennett wrote. After paying a security deposit of nearly $12,500, A Big Daddy Joint Venture defaulted on the lease.