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 for his actions, saying, “Every day, I wake up wishing it did not happen.”
GALLERY: Athletes Behaving Badly
Arenas pleaded guilty to violating the city’s gun laws in a Dec. 21 incident at Verizon Center. After an argument over an unpaid gambling debt, Arenas brought several guns to the team locker room and set them in front of Javaris Crittenton’s locker with a sign telling him to “PICK 1.”
“The evidence is that both of you felt disrespected,” Morin told Arenas of the dispute over a few hundred dollars’ debt from a poker game. “Rather than acting like mature adults, you escalated the incident” by bringing guns to practice.
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 even 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.
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 that the athlete was playing a misguided prank with no intention to harm anybody. They point 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.
“This sad saga has sent a strong message to any and all who might consider bringing guns into the district,” defense attorneys wrote.
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 that is headed for its second consecutive last-place finish after several years of regularly reaching the playoffs.
Arenas disputed claims by prosecutors that he did not take the incident seriously. He specifically referred to his gunslinging pantomime during a pre-game warmup 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 warmup. “I’m looking at picture where 14 or 15 guys are laughing together for the last time,” he said, his voice breaking.
The maximum term for Arenas’ crime is five years. The 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 teammate Javaris Crittenton got into an argument over a card game and exchanged threats while the team was flying home Dec. 19 from a road game. Two days later, Arenas brought his guns to the locker room and put them in a chair by Crittenton’s locker with a sign saying, “Pick 1.” 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.
Morin said he took several factors into account in determining the sentence, including the fact that Crittenton only received probation and that he believed Arenas was remorseful.