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An Oakland, Calif., native, Mr. Muhammad has been quoted in newspapers as stating he was arrested several times as a teenager, once for attempted murder, the lawsuit states.

According to Ms. Armstrong, “Mr. Muhammad has apparently been protected for a long time because people wanted so much to hold him up as an example of a successful African-American male who had overcome a difficult background.” But the lawsuit points to his November 2010 divorce amid charges of adultery and failure to pay child support.