Alabama walk-on Kai Spears suing New York Times for linking him to Jamea Jonae Harris shooting

Kai Spears is suing the New York Times

More than two months after the New York Times published a story stating Alabama basketball walk-on Kai Spears was in Brandon Miller’s car during the fatal shooting of Jamea Jonae Harris in January, Spears is suing the Gray Lady.

The Tuscaloosa News is reporting that the sophomore Crimson Tide guard is seeking $75,000 — not counting interest and court costs — and his lawyers Matt Glover and Stephen P. New’s argument is on the basis of defamation/libel and false light invasion of privacy.

The March 15 story written by Billy Witz hasn’t been retracted. A New York Times spokesperson told the Tuscaloosa News: “We plan to defend against the suit vigorously.” Witz’s story states Spears was in the car with Miller, the star player for Alabama basketball last season and a projected top-five pick in this month’s NBA Draft, at the time of the shooting, with the gun being brought to the scene of the shooting in Miller’s car. Former Alabama basketball player Darius Miles and Michael Davis have been charged with capital murder in the case. Miller has not been charged with a crime and didn’t miss a single game due to his involvement in the incident.

What the lawsuit states

The lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Alabama states Spears and Miller were eating together during the early morning hours of Jan. 15. During the meal, teammate Jaden Bradley chatted via FaceTime with Spears and Miller to see if they wanted to go out. Spears declined, the suit states. Spears allegedly left the Tuscaloosa Strip, where the shooting took place, five minutes before any gunfire. Three minutes after the shooting, Spears allegedly returned the FaceTime to Miller and Bradley to see where they were headed before learning that gunshots had struck Miller’s car.

The University of Alabama did issue a statement to the Times that Witz’s story was inaccurate the day it was published — “Your story is inaccurate,” an Alabama spokesperson wrote — with Spears also releasing a statement with the same sentiment the next day. Christian Spears, the athletic director at Marshall and Kai’s father, also called the story “irresponsible and demonstrably false.” Per The Tuscaloosa News, the lawsuit states Alabama made a written demand in March to the New York Times to retract the story, which fell on deaf ears. The story was readily available Thursday morning, the day after the lawsuit was filed. 

What’s in the water in Tuscaloosa?

Jaykwon Walton won’t be transferring to Alabama anymore

In the months leading up to the NCAA Tournament, the conversation around Alabama’s men’s basketball team was less about how good they were, and more about the drama they were involved in off the court. And while some have forgotten about the tragic death of Jamea Jonae Harris and what her friends and family are still going through, guns are still an issue in Tuscaloosa.

Jaykwon Walton was supposed to be transferring from Wichita State to Alabama, but that’s not in the plans anymore after he was arrested in Tuscaloosa over the weekend for being a passenger in a car that had multiple guns and around 32 grams of weed. Walton told an officer there was a loaded gun under the seat, according to Tuscaloosa PD spokesperson Stephanie Taylor. While the cops went to retrieve the weapon, they noticed a baggie containing about 20 grams of weed. More weed and guns were found in the backseat.

Because of it, Alabama head coach Nate Oats has washed his hands of Walton, who was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and released after posting a $500 bond, according to

Just last month, the New York Times reported that “A Fourth Alabama Player Was at a Deadly Shooting, in a Car Hit by Bullets.” The school denied it. At that time, Crimson Tide star Brandon Miller needed a security guard due to threats against him. (Miller was not charged with any crimes and has denied any previous knowledge of or involvement in the shooting.) Back in January, Darius Miles was arrested in the shooting death of Harris, while Jaden Bradley and Miller were believed to have been at the scene — as they were all on the Crimson Tide’s roster at the time. (Miles was indicted by a grand jury and faces capital murder charges. Like Miller, Bradley was not charged with any crimes.)

Miller has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to be the No 3. overall pick. No. 1 Alabama was defeated in the Sweet 16 by No. 5 San Diego State 71-64.