Baxter Sentenced to Jail in Gun Incident

Lonny Baxter addresses Judge Craig Iscoe. At right are his attorneys, Harold Martin and Richard Finci, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandi K. Garcia.
Lonny Baxter addresses Judge Craig Iscoe. At right are his attorneys, Harold Martin and Richard Finci, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandi K. Garcia. (Illustration By William J. Hennessy Jr.)
By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lonny Baxter, the former University of Maryland basketball star caught last week with a gun a few blocks from the White House, was sentenced yesterday to spend the next two months behind bars after a judge rejected the prosecutor's recommendation for probation.

Baxter, who recently signed a pro contract to play in Europe, agreed to plead guilty yesterday, just a week after he was charged, in hopes that he would be released from jail so he could join his team in Italy for training camp.

Shackled at his wrists and ankles and clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, the 6-foot-8 Baxter said that a .40-caliber Glock found in his white Range Rover was his and that he had fired it into the air in the early hours of Aug. 16 in downtown Washington.

The sight of Baxter, 27, in the dock in D.C. Superior Court was not what anyone would have imagined a few years ago for the young man who led his hometown Maryland Terrapins to a national championship and who seemed to have a promising National Basketball Association career ahead of him.

Echoes of that exciting time in Baxter's life filled the crowded courtroom yesterday.

Maryland Coach Gary Williams, who led the 2002 team that won the national championship, appeared in the courtroom to speak on behalf of Baxter. Dressed in a suit and tie and standing a few feet from his former center, Williams called Baxter a "hard-working individual" and praised him for his efforts with young people and his continued pursuit of his college degree, all of which made Baxter's actions so hard to understand. "Knowing Lonny, I was shocked," Williams told Judge Craig Iscoe.

Former Terps' teammate Juan Dixon, who went on to play for the Wizards, also weighed in, albeit not in person. Baxter's attorneys presented a letter from Dixon as a testimonial to his old teammate.

A bit too short to be a true NBA big man, Baxter never stayed on very long with any of the handful of NBA teams he played for, among them the Wizards. After finishing out last season with the Charlotte Bobcats, Baxter decided to return this season to Europe, where he had played before and where he hoped he could earn another shot at the NBA.

Baxter had been in trouble over guns once before. A couple of years ago, he was arrested in the District after he accidentally fired a shotgun in his Connecticut Avenue NW condominium. Baxter pleaded guilty in Superior Court to a misdemeanor firearms charge in that case, was placed on probation and was told to stay out of trouble -- and not just by the judge.

"I told him, basically, you can't be in those situations. You have too much going for you," Williams told Iscoe of his talk with Baxter after the 2004 arrest.

Apparently, Baxter stayed out of trouble -- until last week, just hours before he was to leave for Italy.

Baxter was celebrating his final night in Washington when was arrested, one of his attorneys, Richard Finci, told the court. Along with the Glock, Secret Service officers found Baxter's passport in the center console of his SUV, Finci said.

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