By Keith L. Alexander and Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 15, 2010; A01
Gilbert Arenas was charged Thursday with a single count of carrying a pistol without a license, a felony that carries a five-year sentence, but the Washington Wizards guard has reached a plea agreement that could result in much less or even no jail time, several sources close to the case said.
Arenas is scheduled to plead guilty Friday afternoon before D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin, who must decide Arenas's sentence.
Regardless of whether Arenas goes to jail, the star's future in the city that once embraced his jocular personality and his ability to hit clutch jump shots is in doubt. The former all-star, whose 25th birthday party drew national celebrities and created a buzz throughout the region, was the face of the Wizards. He has four years remaining on a six-year, $111 million contract with the team. But he has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA, and his relationship with his team appears to be fractured.
Arenas, 28, and his attorney, Kenneth L. Wainstein, declined to comment, as did officials in the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Arenas was charged by prosecutors in a one-count "information" filed in D.C. Superior Court. Informations generally are filed when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty to the charge. Officially, the information charges Arenas with carrying a pistol without a license, outside of a home or place of business. A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case, but no indictment has been returned.
The charges stem from a now infamous incident in the Wizards' locker room at Verizon Center on Dec. 21. Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton had gotten into an argument over a card game on the team plane two days before. Crittenton allegedly said he should shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired left knee, sources have said. At Verizon Center, Arenas placed four unloaded guns on a chair next to Crittenton's locker with a note that said "pick one."
Two witnesses told The Washington Post that Crittenton then pulled his own gun, loaded it and cocked it. He never pointed it at anyone, the witnesses said, and the situation soon calmed down. And just hours before the charges against Arenas were filed on Thursday, Arlington and D.C. police searched Crittenton's home looking for the gun, according to sources familiar with the investigation and court papers.
Police did not find the gun or seize any other evidence at his Arlington home, Crittenton's lawyer and the court papers said.
"I can confirm that a search warrant was executed on Mr. Crittenton's apartment today, that Mr. Crittenton cooperated with the officers conducting the search, and that no evidence was found or seized by police," Peter White, Crittenton's lawyer, said in an e-mailed statement.
According to the court papers, police were looking for a "silver/chrome-colored semiautomatic handgun with a black handle or similar/like artifact." They also were looking for ammunition, holsters, and "any photographs, video footage, or other media depicting the subject posing with a firearm."
For the past week, Arenas, his attorney and prosecutors have been discussing a plea deal, sources close to the case said. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.
Arenas said in a statement last week that he was joking in the locker room and he apologized to his teammates and fans. He acknowledged that he had brought four guns into D.C. from Virginia and said they were not loaded at any time. Even if he owned the guns legally in Virginia, it is illegal to have them in the District if they are not licensed in the city.
Arenas was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of possessing an unregistered gun during a routine traffic stop in 2003 in San Francisco. Police found a .40-caliber handgun in a bag behind the driver's seat and an ammunition clip in the glove compartment. The gun was properly registered in Arizona, but not California. That conviction complicated the plea negotiations, the sources said.
Arenas could have been charged with four counts of illegal gun possession -- one for each of the pistols in the locker room. But as part of the plea agreement, he faces only one charge, making it easier to avoid jail, the sources said.
Morin, a former defense attorney, could sentence Arenas to probation, community service, a fine or some combination, or he could send him to jail. Prosecutors have not said what sentence they would recommend.
Defense attorneys who have battled District prosecutors on behalf of clients who had similar gun possession charges are watching the case closely to see if Arenas receives any special treatment. "It's rare prosecutors allow defendants to plead down," said attorney Nikki Lotze.
NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay on Jan. 6. Stern said the gun incident, coupled with Arenas's making light of the issue on his Twitter account and when he pretended he was shooting teammates in a pregame huddle in Philadelphia, had led him to conclude "that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game."
The incident, which is also being investigated by the NBA, has cast doubt on the future of Arenas's career at a time when he was trying to regain his all-star form after missing the past two seasons following knee surgery.
The Wizards, who endorsed the suspension, have in the past week removed a banner with Arenas's image on it that covered part of the Sixth Street facade of Verizon Center, stopped displaying Arenas's No. 0 jersey and removed all references to him in the introductory video played before home games.
Staff writers Allison Klein and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.