Prosecutors: Gilbert Arenas led a cover-up, deserves jail

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 24, 2010; D01

Federal prosecutors said Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas repeatedly lied about why he carried four unloaded guns into the Verizon Center locker room and tried to cover up his confrontation with a teammate, leading the government on Tuesday to urge a D.C. Superior Court judge to sentence the star athlete to at least three months in jail.

In a scathing 61-page sentencing memo from the District's U.S. Attorney's Office, prosecutors offered new details of the Dec. 21 confrontation between Arenas and Javaris Crittenton. They characterized Arenas's role as a "calculated and premeditated" threat and not a light-hearted joke between teammates, as Arenas has maintained. The memo was filed to the judge Tuesday.

It describes a defiant Arenas, who refused at first to cooperate with investigators or team management and would not accept responsibility for his actions. Then, prosecutors say, he lied, coming up with at least three stories about why he had the guns before acknowledging the confrontation with Crittenton.

At one point, Arenas denied that Crittenton was even in the locker room. "The day after the locker room confrontation, the defendant tried to orchestrate a cover-up to conceal his confrontation with Crittenton, a campaign that would continue . . . for some time," prosecutors wrote. They said Arenas wrote a text message he hoped to get to Crittenton in which he tried to get Crittenton to deny the confrontation.

Arenas, 28, pleaded guilty on Jan. 15 in D. C. Superior Court to a felony count of carrying a pistol without a license. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to ask for more than six months in jail. Prosecutors also agreed to allow Arenas to remain free until his Friday sentencing.

Arenas's attorney, Kenneth L. Wainstein, also filed a sentencing memo Tuesday, arguing that his client should not be locked up. He suggested that Arenas be placed on probation for six months to two years and perform community service. Wainstein called the incident a "misguided prank" and an example of Arenas's long-standing, joking nature that he uses to deal with pressure.

"It is clear" that the incident "was not intended to be violent, but was rather a very misguided attempt to play a prank to provoke a reaction" from Crittenton, Wainstein wrote.

Wainstein said Arenas has already been punished. The NBA's 50-game suspension will cost Arenas $7 million this season, he wrote in his 37-page memo. Wainstein said Arenas has lost more than $50 million in endorsements, bonuses and other compensation after he was dropped by Adidas and Spalding. Wainstein included dozens of letters of support for the former all star, including from his father, his high school coach, Washington Mystics player Alana Beard, writer Dave McMenamin and from several heads of mentoring and youth groups where Arenas has volunteered. The only letter of support from the Wizards came from Sashia R. Jones, director of Wizards community relations.

Arenas is scheduled to appear before Judge Robert E. Morin on Friday for sentencing. Morin is not bound by the plea agreement -- a fact he emphasized in court in January -- and could sentence Arenas to anywhere from probation to five years in jail.

The trouble for Arenas and Crittenton began on Dec. 19 on a chartered flight from Phoenix. Arenas and Crittenton got into an argument over a card game, and Crittenton suggested a fistfight. That quickly escalated into threats to shoot each other.

Crittenton told prosecutors that he took Arenas's threats seriously and packed a gun in his bag and brought it to Verizon Center for protection. On Dec. 21, Arenas arrived at Verizon Center for practice with 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 near the guns. 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, prosecutors said in court papers. Crittenton then displayed his own pistol, a silver-colored, 9mm Taurus semiautomatic. But Crittenton never pointed the unloaded gun at Arenas, prosecutors said.

In January, Crittenton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor gun possession and was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation. The NBA also suspended the Wizards reserve guard for the season.

In the memo, prosecutors said they were seeking six months in jail with three months suspended, followed by three years probation and 300 hours of community service.

Citing interviews with teammates, employees and management, lead prosecutor Christopher K. Kavanaugh, wrote that several players "felt endangered" by Arenas's actions. Many of the teammates quickly left. "Some fled out of a desire to be uninvolved, some fled out of feeling uncomfortable, while others left out of sheer fear," Kavanaugh wrote.

Prosecutors said they don't believe Arenas planned to shoot Crittenton, but that they became frustrated by several accounts Arenas gave explaining the incident. Arenas first told authorities he brought the guns into the locker room to get them away from the Virginia home he shares with his fiancee and three young children. Later, he told authorities he brought the guns, which were part of his collection, to sell to a teammate.

At one time, Arenas told team management that he only brought one gun into the locker room and that he already kept three guns in his locker.

In the memo, prosecutors accused Arenas of "coloring the truth." Arenas, Kavanaugh said, "shades the facts to be consistent with what is, for him, a better and more convenient story, it is clear that he has not truly accepted responsibility for his actions, and his perspectives and explanations are worthy of little weight."

Kavanaugh also included Arenas's text and Twitter messages in which he wrote that he would "come up with a story." Also attached is the now infamous "gunslinging" picture, which shows Arenas, surrounded by his teammates before a game in Philadelphia on Jan. 5. Arenas pantomimed that he was shooting his teammates. The texts, tweets and picture are all examples, the prosecutor said, of Arenas's failing to take situation seriously.

Prosecutors also note that Arenas has a 2003 misdemeanor gun conviction in California and call him a "recidivist."

Arenas's "conduct since the time of the incident establishes that he has shown little genuine remorse for anything other than how this incident may affect his career," Kavanaugh wrote.

"If any other individual without fame, power and the wealth of this defendant, brought four firearms into the District for the purpose of a similar confrontation," Kavanaugh continued, "the government would seek their incarceration and the court would almost certainly give it."

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