Arenas pleads guilty to felony gun possession
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas pleaded guilty Friday to carrying a pistol without a license in the District of Columbia, a felony conviction that could jeopardize his future in the NBA.
Arenas pleaded guilty to a single count of violating the city's strict gun laws as part of a plea bargain in D.C. Superior Court. He will remain free at least until his sentencing March 26.
The charge stems from a Dec. 21 incident in which Arenas acknowledged he stored guns in his locker at the Verizon Center and took them out to play a joke on a teammate.
The NBA has suspended him indefinitely. A pre-sentence report is not yet complete, but defense attorney Kenneth Wainstein said Friday that prosecutors have agreed not to seek a sentence longer than the low end of sentencing guidelines, which call for six months to two years. That could include probation, jail time or some combination. Judge Robert E. Morin emphasized he is not bound by prosecutors' recommendation.
Arenas "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," Wainstein said in a statement.
Prosecutor Chris Kavanaugh, reading in court from a statement of facts that Arenas agreed to, said the charge stemmed from a Dec. 19 dispute with another player over a card game. Kavanaugh did not identify the other player, but authorities have searched the home of teammate Javaris Crittenton for a gun.
Kavanaugh said the disagreement developed during a team flight back from Phoenix. The other player offered to settle matters with a fist fight, but Arenas, 28, said he was too old for that and suggested he would instead burn the other player's Cadillac Escalade or shoot him in the face. The argument on the plane ended with the other player saying he would shoot Arenas in the knee. Arenas has a history of knee problems.
Two days later, Kavanaugh said, Arenas brought at least one gun to the Verizon Center in a black backpack. He laid out four guns on a chair in front of the other player's locker with a sign saying, "Pick 1."
When the other player asked, "What is this?," Arenas responded with words to the effect of: "You said you were going to shoot me, so pick one."
The other player said he had his own gun, threw one of Arenas' weapons across the room and then displayed what appeared to be a silver-colored firearm, Kavanaugh said.
Since Arenas first acknowledged keeping guns in his locker, he has publicly employed a "goof ball" defense, claiming he wasn't aware of the law, meant no harm and never takes anything seriously.
But he was subdued in court Friday, wearing a gray suit with a light pinstripe and responding in a soft voice to the judge's questions.
U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said in a statement that "playing with firearms is no joke."
"Today's guilty plea to a felony count of carrying a pistol without a license reflects the seriousness and grave risk of such conduct," Phillips said.
Arenas, a three-time All-Star, earlier acknowledged storing four unloaded guns in his locker, saying he wanted to keep them away from his young children and didn't know it was a violation of the city's strict gun laws. He says he took them out of the locker Dec. 21 in a "misguided effort to play a joke" on a teammate. After the fracas, authorities seized four unloaded handguns from Arenas, including a gold-plated Desert Eagle .50-caliber semi-automatic that the manufacturer sells for about $2,000. The other weapons were a .500 Magnum revolver, another semi-automatic and a pistol.
He was charged Thursday, hours after Crittenton's northern Virginia apartment was searched by police looking for the silver- or chrome-colored semiautomatic handgun with a black handle. The search warrant indicated police were investigating crimes that include brandishing a weapon. No evidence was seized, according to court documents, and Crittenton has not been charged. Prosecutors said Friday that Crittenton has denied he had a firearm, but they are continuing to investigate.
Crittenton has previously said he did nothing wrong.
Even if Arenas avoids jail, the outcome of the legal process will have important implications on his future in the NBA and specifically with the Wizards. Possession of a gun at an NBA arena is a violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement, and last week commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay pending the outcome of the investigation, a move supported by the Wizards.
Stern was particularly upset that Arenas repeatedly joked about the matter with reporters and on Twitter. Arenas at one point said: "I'm a goof ball and that's what I am, so even doing something like this, I'm going to make fun of it and that's how I am."
LINK TO GILBERT ARENAS SLIDE SHOW: