Hill Wants NBA Star to Testify on Violent Video

By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 3, 2005; Page B02

Two congressmen yesterday asked that National Basketball Association star Carmelo Anthony be called to a hearing to explain his cameo appearance in an underground DVD that celebrates witness intimidation, even as Maryland officials said the Baltimore native will be featured in a violence prevention campaign that is to be unveiled this summer.

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), speaking at meeting in Baltimore yesterday, said Anthony has "sort of flip-flopped" on a pledge to participate in such a campaign. Cummings, who pressured Anthony to publicly denounce drugs and violence after the video surfaced in November, later said Anthony's representatives "basically stopped being in contact" in February.

Carmelo Anthony is set to appear in an anti-violence campaign debuting July 31.

As a result, Cummings and Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R-Ind.) yesterday asked the chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform to call the Denver Nuggets forward to testify at a hearing.

"It is exasperating to me that a high-profile, hot athlete . . . would lend himself to a video like this," Souder said.

Anthony's representatives disputed the suggestion that he has not honored his promise, saying discussions with aides to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) are progressing.

Indeed, Betsy N. Merrill, executive director of Ehrlich's Office of Community Initiatives, said Anthony has agreed to be featured in a public service announcement.

"We have spoken to his agents, and they are anxious to get started, and their comment was they'd like to get started sooner rather than later so it can be highlighted during the NBA finals," she said.

The public service announcement featuring Anthony will be unveiled July 31, said Ajom Ali of Eclipse Sports & Entertainment, which is producing the announcement.

"This is something that I think he's really, really interested in, and it's been a great thing working with him," Ali said of Anthony.

Anthony's agent was not available yesterday, but Bill Sanders, a vice president with the firm that represents the athlete, said he was surprised by Cummings's remarks. Anthony, whose team was in a playoff game last night, is looking forward to being more involved in community efforts once his professional obligations slow, Sanders said.

"This kid has a lot of heart and cares deeply about the community," he said.

Anthony, 20, appears briefly in "Stop Snitching," an underground DVD that has been circulating in Baltimore. Although Anthony does not explicitly condone violence in the video, in one scene he stands next to a man who warns that people who tip off Baltimore police about drug deals will "get a hole in their head." The DVD includes men talking about retaliation against suspected police informants. "To all you rat snitches lucky enough to get this DVD, I hope you catch AIDS," a man says at the beginning of the video.

Anthony said in January that he was unaware of the DVD's message when he was on camera while visiting his former neighborhood.

"I'm completely against violence and drugs -- that's not me," Anthony told a Post reporter at the time. "I just want to get the word out. I've lost friends to violence. I would never support anybody harming anyone . . . I just want to help."

The video has focused attention on witness intimidation, which prosecutors say is particularly a problem in Baltimore and Prince George's County. Cummings and other officials denounced Anthony for his brief appearance, saying his celebrity has propelled the DVD and its violent message into wider circulation.

Trudy Perkins, a Cummings spokeswoman, said late yesterday that the congressman was never told of Anthony's agreement with the state. She said that the athlete had agreed to "do something on the federal level" and that his commitment to the public service announcement does not satisfy that obligation.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company