Ever since he was linked to the murder of his pregnant girlfriend in Arizona in 1993, former DeMatha High School and Maryland basketball star Jerrod Mustaf has been trying to polish a tarnished reputation.
Mustaf, whose first cousin, LeVonnie Wooten, was convicted of first-degree murder, remains a suspect in the death of Althea Hayes. Both the prosecution and defense said during the 1996 trial that Mustaf masterminded the plot to kill Hayes, who was three-months pregnant by Mustaf. But he was never indicted. Wooten, meanwhile, is serving a life sentence without parole at a federal prison in Yuma, Ariz.
Mustaf, who played three seasons for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns after leaving Maryland in 1990 following his sophomore year, has not played in the NBA since the Suns bought out his contract before the 1994-95 season. He later played professionally in Spain, France and Poland. According to officials of the Maryland Mustangs, the United States Basketball League's expansion team based in Upper Marlboro, Mustaf inquired about playing for the team.
Mustaf, 31, is coaching Team Bias, a traveling squad comprised of local high school players named after Len Bias, the former Maryland great who died of a cocaine overdose in 1986. The team travels to various tournaments, some sanctioned by the AAU, for the purpose of exposing its players to college scouts.
But Mustaf continues to find it difficult to emerge from under a cloud of suspicion.
In 1998, Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court records showed that Mustaf fathered five children by five different women, not counting Hayes, and ordered Mustaf to pay child support to one of them.
That same year, Mustaf filed for bankruptcy in Maryland, even though he was playing in Europe and earning more than $141,000 monthly, according to a lawyer's report. Also in 1998, Mustaf settled, for an unspecified amount, a wrongful death civil suit filed by Althea Hayes' parents.
Mustaf again has run afoul of the law.
He was charged with second-degree assault for reportedly attacking Shalamar Mustaf in February. Shalamar Mustaf calls herself Jerrod Mustaf's "wife" although the home they are sharing in Mitchellville, Md., was listed as her "temporary residence" in court documents. She is the niece of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam.
After the reported assault, Shalamar Mustaf sought protection from Mustaf. In March, he was ordered by the Maryland district court in Prince George's County to stay away from their home, the school her son attends and her place of employment.
Shortly thereafter, Mustaf was arrested for violating the protective order. He has been charged with entering the residence and attempting to contact his wife where she works. The trial for the assault and the dual violations of the protective order is scheduled for tomorrow.
Jerrod Mustaf spoke briefly with The Washington Times when he was first contacted and agreed to be interviewed, but at that time, the pending charges were not mentioned. Later, he said he changed his mind and had nothing further to say. His lawyer, Michael Statham, briefly talked to The Washington Times, but attempts to reach him about the charges facing Mustaf have been unsuccessful.
In a brief interview last week, Shalamar Mustaf said, "My husband and I are fine… . Jerrod and I are having no problems. We're going through some personal changes."
Court documents, which include Shalamar Mustaf's statements, tell a different story.
In the application for statement of charges pertaining to the assault, Shalamar Mustaf wrote that her husband, who stands 6-foot-10 and weighs 240 pounds, slapped her face, pulled her ponytail and slammed her face into the bed. "Then he picked up our five foot lamp," she wrote, "and went to hit me and my 6-month-old son in the head. He at some point realized that he was about to hit his son. So he put the lamp down. He told me I had one month to get out of his house with my two children or else he would make my life a nightmare."
Shalamar Mustaf added that her son's face was "smashed" due to her falling on him after Jerrod slapped her. "I live in fear for me and my children," she wrote. She also claims that in February, Mustaf pulled a knife on her "and said that I better have sex with him or he would not let me out of the house. After he had stayed out all night with another woman."
In another statement of charges, Shalamar Mustaf wrote that Mustaf was removed from the home for violating the restraining order that was issued after the assault. She added, "My son, which is his stepson, is scared of him and thinks he is going to harm him because Jerrod put him out of the house."
Shalamar Mustaf also told the court that Mustaf removed some of her belongings from the house, including passports, medical records, work files and pictures.
Mustaf was arrested for violating the restraining order on March 16 when he parked his car next to Shalamar Mustaf's car at her place of employment in Largo. At the time of the arrest, he also was served a summons for the assault. Shalamar Mustaf wrote in her statement that she learned Mustaf had called her son's daycare center to see if he had been dropped off. She then called a police officer and was escorted to work. The officer returned to arrest Mustaf.
Asked why she requested a protective order and made accusatory statements to the court if she and her husband are "fine" and "there are no problems," Shalamar Mustaf said, "I got some bad advice." She refused to elaborate, but added that she and Jerrod Mustaf are "trying to lead a positive life."
It is clearly noted on the application for statement of charges that the person who signs affirms that, under penalty of perjury, their statements are true.
Apparently this is not the only time Jerrod Mustaf has been involved in a domestic abuse case. Bruce Lowe, a Glendale, Ariz., police detective, said that in 1997 Mustaf assaulted and fired a gun at a woman who gave the name of Psasha Mustaf. Lowe said he was not sure if the woman was Mustaf's wife, and he said she did not file a formal complaint. Lowe said he obtained this information through his investigation of the Hayes murder.
In 1993, the same woman, who then was Mustaf's fiancee and the mother of the couple's 8-month-old child, accused Mustaf of pushing her and a friend. The charges later were dropped.
Mustaf, as a freshman at Maryland, acknowledged shaking a girlfriend who was pregnant with his baby. He later was quoted in a New York Times article as saying, "I've had all kinds of problems with women. I've seen women try all types of things."
Mustaf may have had repeated "trouble" with women, but he also has exhibited a social conscience by working in the community and with youngsters. His father, Shaar Mustaf, was largely responsible for that.
A 1993 New York Times story detailed how Shaar Mustaf, a political activist who took his Muslim name in 1970, abandoned his son as a baby. Then, the story reported, Shaar Mustaf returned to North Carolina and took his 12-year-old son, born out of wedlock and named Terrah Jerrod Brown. However, when it became apparent that the boy was good at basketball, the father moved back to Maryland.
That summer, Jerrod Mustaf attended a basketball camp run by DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten. Mustaf would later play for Wootten at DeMatha. "Jerrod was terrific," Wootten said. "He worked hard. He was a wonderful young man. He couldn't have been nicer."
But Wootten, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, made it clear to Shaar Mustaf who was in charge of Jerrod's basketball upbringing.
"We had a little meeting to start the season," Wootten said. "He understood that I was gonna be the coach."
Guided by his father, who wanted his son to become a political leader, Jerrod Mustaf used most of the $3 million he earned in his first three NBA seasons to start various businesses each designed to create jobs for blacks. He also created a foundation to support a program, run by Shaar Mustaf, to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents.
Jerrod Mustaf, who helped out Wootten at his camps, seemed to like getting involved with kids, particularly minorities. He worked with black youth for the Prince George's County executive office. He ran camps to help his dad's foundation. Then last month, he applied over the Internet for his AAU membership card and started coaching Team Bias.
Mustaf is registered with the local association of the AAU Potomac Valley, which serves the D.C. metro area. There are 57 such associations nationally. Team Bias is the name of a basketball organization put together by Fluff Parker Jr. who, like his father, Fluff Parker Sr., formed several such teams in various age groups over the years. Mustaf once played for a team run by Parker Sr.
Parker said he got to know Mustaf through a mutual friend and has been "seeing" Mustaf the last two summers. "We promised to do something" about putting a team together, Parker said.
The team competed in its first tournament last month, an event not sanctioned by the AAU in Wilkes Barre, Pa. Parker said Team Bias went 4-1 and won the 17-under competition. Bill Brown, a tournament organizer, said Team Bias went 2-2 and finished second. The team includes players from Prince George's County and D.C. high schools. Among them are Steve Nelson (Friendly High School), Roland Harris (Gwynn Park), Matthew Brown and Andrew Johnson (Dunbar), Davon West (Central) and Jeremiah Johnson (Eastern), who is Mustaf's cousin.
Parker said he likes the way Mustaf works with the players, and he believes they can learn something from him.
"He's a real nice guy," said Parker, who has formed several other basketball organizations, including Sky's the Limit, Run 'N Slam and Slam 'N Jam. "I know he's good for the kids. From what I'm seeing, he's got a good situation to be a role model."
Parker, whose Sky's the Limit team was recently kicked out of a Potomac Valley AAU-sanctioned tournament for using ineligible players, said he vaguely was aware of the controversy surrounding Mustaf and the Hayes murder.
"I know he's a free man and he's willing to work with young people," Parker said. "I know my organization is named for a controversial person… . I just know about the redemptive purposes the creator has for humanity."
P.K. Martin, president of Potomac Valley and head of the Jaguars organization which fields 14 boys basketball teams, said he was only marginally aware of Mustaf's past. "I heard his cousin had gotten in some sort of trouble," he said. Martin said he is concerned about Mustaf's current legal situation, but indicated Mustaf's coaching status likely would not be affected unless a complaint was registered and hearings were held on both the regional and national level.
"The registration process says you can be terminated or your membership can be terminated if you're a person of bad character," Martin said.
"But I would say if a person is not convicted of a crime, then I could not convict him personally. Now, I would be concerned about the nature of the allegations. And I would be more concerned about what the parents knew, and the parents' perceptions."
His present circumstances notwithstanding, Mustaf cannot escape the shadow of Althea Hayes' murder on July 22, 1993, in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale. Hayes was 27 at the time of her death. She was shot four times at close range. The case has no statute of limitations, and Arizona law enforcement officials still consider Mustaf a suspect.
"That hasn't changed," said Lowe.
"The case has never been closed, and we believe that others were involved in the death of Althea Hayes," said Bill FitzGerald, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's office, which prosecuted the case against LeVonnie Wooten. "And certainly one person we believe to be a suspect is Jerrod Mustaf."
However, FitzGerald added, "We don't believe there is enough evidence to prosecute at this time."
Lowe, who believes there is enough evidence, said, "[Wooten], the guy who did shoot her had no motive, zero."
In 1994 Mustaf refused to testify before a grand jury and invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Wooten, who never testified at his trial, never has spoken publicly. Four months before the murder, Wooten filed a civil suit against Mustaf for hitting him with a cell phone.
DNA testing revealed that Hayes was pregnant by Mustaf. Witnesses said the two had argued bitterly over that fact. Prosecutors believed Mustaf offered Hayes $5,000 to have an abortion and when she refused, he sent Wooten to kill her. Prosecutors charged that Mustaf flew Wooten to Arizona from Maryland to kill Hayes. Shortly before her death, Hayes whispered to a friend over the phone that Wooten was in her apartment and she was afraid.
Witnesses placed Mustaf at his home in Chandler, Ariz., at the time of the murder. But other witnesses, including an off-duty police officer, testified they saw Mustaf and Wooten in separate cars outside Hayes' apartment the day she was killed. Mustaf once told a reporter he was there to loan Hayes some money.
Wooten, a former drug offender, was invited by Mustaf to work for him in Phoenix in 1991. Among his various enterprises, Mustaf owned a bookstore specializing in African-American subjects. He also owned a music business and Hayes wanted to be a singer. That's how they met.
Hayes' mother, 71-year-old Hazel Hayes, told The Washington Times that she and her husband Alvin are convinced that Mustaf "paid someone to murder my daughter."
She added, "But he got away with it. Up to this point."
Hazel Hayes said she recently lost another daughter, Barbara, who was 47 when she died. Hazel Hayes said she could not recall the nature of Barbara's illness. "I believe she grieved herself to death," said Hazel Hayes, who added that her own health has declined since the murder.
"I learned something," she said. "I didn't know grief could cause your bones to deteriorate."
Mustaf had finished playing his second season with the Phoenix Suns at the time of the murder. After playing two years under Bob Wade at Maryland, Mustaf was a first-round draft pick by New York in 1990. He was traded to Phoenix in 1991, but he contributed little to the Suns. When the team went to the NBA Finals in 1993 it lost to Chicago in six games Mustaf was not on the playoff roster.
Following an unproductive 1993-94 season and with the rumors swirling, the Suns bought out the rest of Mustaf's contract for $2.5 million. The contract had two seasons remaining and would have paid him $3.8 million. It wasn't just the legal situation. "I'm disappointed in [Mustaf's] lack of commitment to becoming a bona fide NBA player," Suns president Jerry Colangelo said at the time.
Mustaf signed with Charlotte in 1996 but was let go in the wake of adverse publicity. The same thing happened in Seattle. He played in Europe for several teams and had some good seasons but never returned to the NBA. During his brief interview with The Washington Times, Mustaf said he suspected the NBA had unofficially blacklisted him.
"We can look at the facts," he said. "Anytime you see a 6-10 guy that can walk and chew gum at the same time, the first question is, 'Can he play in the NBA?' If I was a general manager, and I saw a guy on the street that, if I went to Safeway and saw a guy that was 6-10, I'd have to bring the guy in. Especially if you're not in the playoffs… . It's not my fault I haven't been in the NBA."
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