Wizards' Gilbert Arenas pleads guilty to felony gun count

Star Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, 28, appeared in the D.C. Superior Court to be sentenced for the gun crime he admitted to in January. He has been spared a jail term.
By Keith L. Alexander
Saturday, January 16, 2010

Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas pleaded guilty Friday in D.C. Superior Court to a felony count of carrying a pistol without a license, leaving his NBA career in jeopardy.

As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to ask for more than six months in jail for Arenas. He will remain free at least until he is sentenced on March 26 by Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin.

Morin is not bound by the plea agreement -- a fact he emphasized in court -- and could sentence Arenas to anywhere from probation to a maximum five years in jail. The former all-star was released after agreeing to surrender his passport and not possess any handguns.

Arenas, 28, has been the face of the Wizards since he arrived in Washington in 2003. He has four years remaining on his six-year, $111 million contract, but the NBA has suspended him indefinitely and the team has not publicly supported its star since the gun incident. On Friday, the team issued a terse statement saying officials were disappointed in Arenas. "Gilbert used extremely poor judgment and is ultimately responsible for his own actions," the statement said. He likely is done playing at least for this season. Adidas announced late Friday it was ending its relationship with Arenas, whom it had sponsored since 2003.

During his court appearance, Arenas showed little of the engaging personality that has made his No. 0 jersey ubiquitous at Verizon Center. He walked into the courthouse wearing a gray flannel pinstriped suit and answered questions from Morin with simple "yes, sir" and "no, sir" responses. Those questions included whether he had agreed to plead guilty and waive his right to a trial.

The charges stem from the now-infamous incident in the Wizards' locker room at Verizon Center on Dec. 21. At the hearing Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh filled in some of the details of the confrontation between Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton, without mentioning Crittenton by name.

On Dec. 19, the team flew on a chartered flight to the Washington area from Phoenix. Arenas and Crittenton got into an argument over a card game. Crittenton suggested a fistfight. But Arenas said he was too old to fight and instead said he would burn Crittenton's vehicle or shoot him in the face. Crittenton then told Arenas he would "shoot the [expletive]" out of Arenas and shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired left knee. Arenas later told Wizards employees that he was joking about the threats.

On Dec. 21, at about 9:30 a.m., Arenas arrived at Verizon Center for practice. He came into the locker room wearing a black backpack with a silver Smith & Wesson .500 magnum revolver inside. He then placed four guns on the chair directly in front of Crittenton's locker. Arenas wrote "PICK 1" on a piece of paper and placed it on Crittenton's chair near the guns. Arenas said he also was joking about that.

When Crittenton saw the guns, he said, "What is this?"

Arenas told Crittenton, "You said you were going to shoot me, so pick one." Crittenton said he did not need Arenas's guns because he had his own. Crittenton picked up one of the guns from the chair and threw it across the locker room. Crittenton then displayed his own silver-colored, semiautomatic handgun, the prosecutor said.

After the incident, Arenas collected the guns, placed them inside his locker and then put them in a suitcase. He gave the suitcase to another Wizards teammate and told him to take it take it to Arenas's car in the garage. Prosecutors said there was no evidence that the teammate knew what was inside the suitcase.

When the unnamed teammate went to the garage, he did not know which vehicle belonged to Arenas. So the player left the suitcase in the garage. Minutes later, Wizards management learned about the incident and met with Arenas. He admitted he brought the guns from his home in Virginia into Washington. He also told management that Crittenton had a gun.

Wizards management then told security guards to grab the suitcase and remove it from Verizon Center. Arenas led a member of the security staff to the garage and pointed out the suitcase. The security officer then took the guns back to Virginia.

On Dec. 24, attorneys for the Wizards and Arenas told the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District about the incident. Authorities then seized the four guns from Arenas's house in Virginia, including the .500 magnum; a .50-caliber gold-plated semiautomatic Desert Eagle with a magazine; a .45-caliber, black semiautomatic Kimber Eclipse with a magazine; and a 9mm Browning with a magazine.

Now, Arenas must wait until March to learn his fate. Prosecutors and Arenas's lawyer will both issue sentencing recommendations to Morin. Morin will consider those requests along with a mandatory report from the court services division, which will interview Arenas and others. Arenas also must turn himself in to D.C. police by Jan. 29 to be fingerprinted and officially booked.

His attorney, Kenneth L. Wainstein, issued a statement saying Arenas "accepted full responsibility for his actions." NBA Players Association chief Billy Hunter said in a statement that the union is "committed to aggressively representing him."

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 one charge, making it more likely that he'll avoid much jail time, the sources said. As part of the deal, prosecutors agreed not to bring any more charges.

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