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Sexual Harassment Suit - Cheerleader Says Garden No Party

Newsday, Patricia Hurtado (Staff Writer)

A former Rangers cheerleader filed suit against Madison Square Garden and Cablevision yesterday, saying she was fired after warning her colleagues that a Garden executive made unwanted sexual advances.

The sexual harassment suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, comes after an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling in August that the Garden engaged in discriminatory employment practices against Courtney Prince, 30, of Manhattan.

Prince, a professional skater, joined the Garden in 2001 as an ice-skating cheerleader, the suit says. A year later, she helped found the Ranger City Skaters, her lawyers said.

According to Prince's lawyers, Kathleen Peratis and Tammy Marzigliano, Prince worked "tirelessly" for the team and performed many unpaid duties, including choreography and costume design. She won praise from her boss, who appointed her team captain.

Trouble allegedly began in December 2003, when she agreed to attend a party at a West Village bar with Jason Vogel, a managerial employee of the Garden. Vogel had told Prince that her teammates had gone there and he offered to accompany her, Prince's lawyers said.

While at the bar, Vogel made sexual advances to Prince, solicited her for sex and tried to kiss her, the suit says. Vogel and an unnamed man told Prince they wanted to go into the bathroom and have sex with her. Prince rebuffed them and left, the suit says.

A few days later, Prince told some of her fellow skaters about the incident and cautioned them to be circumspect with management as they had been instructed to do with hockey players.

The suit charges that Garden officials learned of Prince's allegations and on Jan. 22 accused her of being a "sexual predator." She was also accused of disparaging management.

"She didn't complain about the sexual harassment but instead warned her teammates," Peratis said. "Then she was called in, and in effect, fired."

Garden officials released a statement yesterday saying, "We believe that the allegations are unfounded and we will proceed accordingly."

Prince claims in her suit that Garden management accused her of forcing her teammates to stuff their bras, accused her of pushing diet pills on the women and engaged in sex talk with her fellow skaters.

Prince denies the allegations. She is seeking back pay, reinstatement or reimbursement for lost benefits, as well as unnamed compensatory and punitive damages.