Saturday, March 27, 2010
Arenas very fortunate, Only gets probation
WASHINGTON -- Suspended Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas was ordered Friday to spend 30 days in a halfway house for his conviction on gun charges stemming from a locker-room confrontation with a teammate.
District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin also sentenced Arenas to 400 hours of community service, which cannot be conducted at basketball clinics, and a $5,000 fine.
Arenas apologized in court, saying, "Every day, I wake up wishing it did not happen."
Arenas pleaded guilty to violating the city's gun laws in a Dec. 21 incident at Verizon Center. Following an argument over an unpaid gambling debt totaling a few hundred dollars, Arenas brought several guns to the team locker room and set them near Javaris Crittenton's locker with a sign telling him to "PICK 1."
"The evidence is that both of you felt disrespected," Morin told Arenas. "Rather than acting like mature adults, you escalated the incident" by bringing guns to practice.
After sentencing, Arenas' lawyer, Ken Wainstein, said he was pleased with the outcome.
"Judge Morin's decision was fair and measured; it reflected a deep understanding of the relevant facts ... Mr. Arenas is grateful to the court and looks forward to serving the community and once again being a force for good in the District of Columbia," Wainstein said in a statement.
In court papers, prosecutors said Crittenton had a legitimate reason to believe Arenas' threat was genuine.
Prosecutors wanted Arenas to go to jail for at least three months. They said he lied repeatedly about why the guns were in the locker room and tried to cover up what had happened. They also said he knew bringing guns into D.C. was illegal and has a prior gun conviction.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh wrote in court papers that "if any other individual -- without the fame, power, and the wealth of this defendant -- brought four firearms into Washington, D.C., for the purpose of a similar confrontation," they would surely go to jail.
Arenas' lawyers sought probation and community service, arguing the incident was a misguided prank with no intention to harm anyone. They pointed out that the guns were unloaded, that Arenas' lighthearted comments about the incident were misinterpreted, and that he's a good role model who excelled at community service.
Gilbert Arenas timeline
Dec. 19: Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton argue over a card game and exchange threats as team flies home from a road game.
Dec. 21: Arenas brings his guns to locker room and puts them in a chair by Crittenton's locker with a sign saying, "Pick 1." Crittenton retrieves his own gun and shows it to Arenas.
Jan. 6: NBA suspends Arenas without pay, effective immediately. NBA commissioner David Stern: "Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game."
Jan. 15: Arenas pleads guilty in court. Ken Wainstein, Arenas' attorney, said: "[Arenas] pled guilty to a charge of carrying a pistol in the District of Columbia without a license. He accepted full responsibility for his actions, acknowledged that those actions were wrong and against the law, and has apologized to all who have been affected by his conduct."
Jan. 27: NBA suspends Arenas (and Crittenton) for remainder of season. From the Wizards: "Their poor judgment has also violated the trust of our fans and stands in contrast to everything [late owner] Abe Pollin stood for throughout his life. It is widely known that Mr. Pollin took the extraordinary step of changing the team name from 'Bullets' to 'Wizards' in 1997 precisely to express his abhorrence of gun violence in our community."
March 23: Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh recommends three-month jail term, followed by three years of probation and 300 hours of community service.
March 26: Arenas sentenced in D.C. Superior Court to two years probation, which includes 30 days in halfway house and 400 hours of community service. He is also required to register as a gun offender and donate $5,000 to fund for victims of violent crimes.
"This sad saga has sent a strong message to any and all who might consider bringing guns into the district," defense attorneys wrote.
Arenas disputed claims by prosecutors that he did not take the incident seriously. He specifically referred to his gunslinging pantomime during a pregame warm-up in Philadelphia while the crime was under investigation.
"For everybody else, I'm taking it lightly," he said, referring to a widely circulated photo of him goofing around during the warm-up. "I'm looking at picture where 14 or 15 guys are laughing together for the last time," he said, his voice breaking.
Arenas' sentence could determine whether the Wizards will attempt to void the remainder of his six-year, $111 million contract, although the players' union has vowed to fight such a move.
Regardless, Arenas' misdeed has helped contribute to the precipitous decline of a franchise, which is headed for its second consecutive last-place finish after years of regularly reaching the playoffs.
The Wizards did not address Arenas' future with the team in a statement later Friday.
"We believe today's sentencing of Gilbert Arenas can help bring closure to the unfortunate situation that has played out over the last three months," said the statement issued by president Ernie Grunfeld and the Pollin family that owns the team.
"Gilbert has admitted his mistakes and will now pay his debt to our community ... we now look forward to moving on and focusing on building this team into the contender that our outstanding fans deserve."
Wizards coach Flip Saunders agreed that Arenas' sentencing will "put a little closure" on this saga.
"In the conversation I've had with him I think he's aware that he did something that was very stupid," Saunders said. "He was aware there was going to be some type of consequences.
"He'll probably start doing some stuff come summer time that he needs to from an in-shape standpoint."
Saunders hopes this will allow the team to move forward. Teammate Mike Miller says he's happy Arenas won't be going to jail and believes he'll make the most of his opportunity to play again next season.
Added guard Randy Foye: "Everyone across the world knows he made a mistake. The biggest thing now is trying to make sure the younger kids and little kids don't do the same thing, don't make the same mistakes he has made."
The maximum term for Arenas' crime is five years. Sentencing guidelines for someone with his record call for six months to two years, although those guidelines also allow for probation.
There has been little dispute about the facts of the case.
Arenas and Crittenton had argued over a card game and exchanged threats while the team flew home from a road game Dec. 19. Two days later, Arenas brought his guns to the locker room. Crittenton then retrieved his own gun and showed it to Arenas.
Crittenton pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor gun charge and received a year of unsupervised probation.
Arenas entered his guilty plea Jan. 15.
In sentencing Arenas, Morin said he took into account the fact that Crittenton received only probation and his belief that Arenas was remorseful.