John Williams, a former Washington Bullets forward whose promising NBA career collapsed because of weight problems, was sentenced by a federal judge in Prince George's County yesterday to one year and one day in prison for failing to pay $128,000 he owed in child support.
U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow also sentenced Williams, 37, to one year of supervised release, on the condition that he start making payments on the amount he owes, federal officials said.
Chasanow noted that Williams was being sentenced the day after Father's Day, federal officials said.
Dressed in trousers and a casual pullover shirt, the 6-foot-8-inch Williams told Chasanow that he was remorseful and accepted responsibility, federal officials said.
Chasanow rejected Williams's request that he be allowed to be free so he could continue to earn money as a professional basketball player in Spain. Williams began playing in Spain in 1997, after his NBA career ended.
Williams owes child support for a 12-year-old boy who lives with his mother in Rockville, federal officials said. The child's mother, according to federal court records, is Nidia Petra Reeves, who never married Williams.
She originally filed for child support in Prince George's Circuit Court, where in May 1994 a county judge ordered Williams to pay $1,500 a month, authorities said.
In April 2003, Williams pleaded guilty to one felony count of willful failure to pay child support. At his request, Chasanow had twice postponed the sentencing, federal officials said.
In February, Williams said he would use money from his earnings in the European basketball league to pay at least 25 percent of what he owed, officials said.
Williams made one payment of $9,000, federal officials said. In 2000 and 2001, Williams earned about $290,000 playing in Spain, federal authorities said.
He has up to 45 days in which to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons, officials said.
Williams's defense attorney Jeannett Henry, declined to comment. She said Williams had no comment.
The sentence culminates a five-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's inspector general's office.
When he is not playing in Europe, Williams lives in Los Angeles, his home town, with his wife and their young child, authorities said. He owes support payments for another child in California.
After playing for two years at Louisiana State University, Williams in 1986 was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Washington Bullets, now called the Wizards.
In his third year with the team, Williams averaged nearly 14 points a game. Williams showed enough promise for the team to reward him in 1989 with a six-year, $6 million contract.
But Williams was plagued by weight and knee problems, each of which exacerbated the other. Williams often tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds, and he was fined by the Bullets for being overweight.
In October 1992, the Bullets traded Williams -- who by then was widely known by the derisive nickname "Hot Plate" -- to the Los Angeles Clippers.