NEW YORK, June 25 -- Basketball star Anthony Mason avoided statutory rape charges, pleading guilty in a New York City court to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child after two young teenage girls had accused him and another man of having sex with them. Mason will perform 200 hours of community service at the Progressive Baptist Church homeless shelter in Charlotte, N.C., where he plays for the Charlotte Hornets. Mason's companion that February night did not get off so easy. William Duggins pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory rape and endangering the welfare of a child. The 24-year-old Queens man was sentenced to five years probation and 800 hours of community service. Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Appelbaum moved to have two felony rape charges and a charge of sexual abuse against Mason dismissed, because the DNA evidence did not link him to the crime. The two teenagers, apparently sisters, said they met Mason and Duggins at a charity basketball game in Manhattan on Feb. 7. The girls said Mason and Duggins each took a girl into their respective limousines and had sex, then pulled over and traded partners. The teens did not accuse the NBA star and his friend of forcing them to have sex with them, but the act would have been a crime anyway because of the girls' ages. The 31-year-old Mason played five seasons for the New York Knicks before being traded to the Hornets in July 1996 in the deal that brought forward Larry Johnson to New York.
The former Knick, a native of Queens, is no stranger to run-ins with the law. Two summers ago, he was accused of fighting with New York City police over a parking ticket. The hoopster has also been accused of beating up partygoers at two city nightclubs, and a Manhattan restaurant patron once sued Mason for attacking him. In 1989, Mason faced a felony gun possession charge. ---
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