Posted on: January 25, 2010 5:47 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2010 9:40 pm
Javaris Crittenton’s guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful possession of a firearm Monday cleared one of the final hurdles before the David Stern Department of Justice can render its decision.
That is expected to happen, sources said, once investigators and lawyers from the NBA security department speak with Crittenton – that is, if they haven’t already.
The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement requires players facing discipline to cooperate with league investigators once they are out of legal jeopardy. Crittenton’s plea and sentence of one year probation and a $1,000 fine (plus $250 in court costs) cleared the way for him to share his version of the facts with the league.
The proffer of facts presented Monday by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia revealed that there was “no evidence” Crittenton’s firearm – a 9mm semi-automatic Taurus – was loaded when he pulled it out of his backpack during a dispute with Arenas in the Verizon Center locker room on Dec. 21. Prosecutors also stated: “There also is no evidence that Crittenton ever chambered a round, pulled back the hammer, raised or pointed the firearm, or otherwise brandished the firearm in a threatening manner at any time during this incident.”
The government’s version of events supported earlier statements by Crittenton’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, who had said that his client did not brandish a gun during the argument with Arenas. But does that mean Crittenton – or Arenas, for that matter – will be viewed more favorably by Stern? Most likely not, and here’s why:
The closest precedents for this case are Stephen Jackson’s seven-game suspension for firing a gun into the air outside an Indianapolis strip club in 2006, and two gun-related suspensions assessed to Sebastian Telfair. In 2005, Telfair was suspended two games when a gun was found in his luggage on a team flight, and in 2008 he was suspended three games after getting pulled over with a loaded gun in his car. With the public calling for – and the players association bracing for – a lengthy suspension for Arenas of between 25 games and the rest of the season, how can Stern go there when at least some of the facts acknowledged by prosecutors suggest a tone more consistent with a practical joke than a gun battle? How could Arenas’ suspension stretch many times longer than those given to Jackson and Telfair?
Here’s how: First of all, witnesses who were in the locker room at the time of the incident gave conflicting accounts to the authorities as to whether Crittenton’s gun was loaded. You and I would do the same. How would you know? One source told CBSSports.com that the players present – Randy Foye, Mike Miller, and DeShawn Stevenson – ran out of the locker room when the guns came out. As you might imagine, nobody in his right mind is going to stick around to find out if the guns are loaded. Even under some aspects of the D.C. criminal code, brandishing an unloaded gun carries the same penalty as brandishing a loaded one because potential victims have no way of telling the difference.
Also, Arenas and Crittenton crossed a precedent-setting line that neither Jackson nor Telfair crossed: They brought the guns onto NBA property – i.e., the locker room – and worse than that, they took them out. This, along with Arenas’ decision to mock the seriousness of gun play with his fake-guns display in a pre-game huddle on Jan. 5, set him up for a lengthy ban by Stern. The only factor in Arenas’ favor, in my opinion, is the suspension that is pending for the Cavaliers’ Delonte West, who was pulled over in Maryland last year carrying a loaded arsenal. If Arenas gets 50 games, what does West get? A hundred?
Aside from NBA investigators interviewing Crittenton, one other issue will have to be resolved before this is over. Under the CBA, players who have committed on-court transgressions are eligible to appeal suspensions of longer than 12 games to a grievance arbitrator. In all other cases, Stern is the arbitrator – and you can imagine the success rate of those appeals. After the Palace brawl in 2004, the definition of “on-court” was expanded to include areas like arena hallways (known as vomitories) and the locker room. But a distinction was made to specify violations committed “at, during, or in connection with” an NBA game. Since the Arenas-Crittenton incident occurred on a practice day, it is likely that an arbitrator will have to rule on whether he can hear the appeal before actually ruling on it.
Either way, all signs point to a whopping punishment coming from the commissioner’s office. All things considered, I would recommend that Mr. Arenas and Mr. Crittenton get hobbies.
Posted on: January 8, 2010 10:19 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2010 2:28 am
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson used to play card games for money back in his playing days, and he doesn't think it's necessary to ban his players from doing the same.
"No, I'm not in favor of that right now at all," Jackson said Friday night in the wake of teams including the Nets and Wizards banning gambling on team planes. A dispute involving firearms between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton erupted over a disagreement during a card game on the team charter.
"I think it’s just a P.R. thing, personally," Jackson said. "What are these players going to do when they get back in their hotels or they get back in their home space? They're going to go in their houses or their rooms in the hotels and gamble. Maybe on the planes might even be a better spot for them to do it because they're monitored and in the company of guys."
Jackson said high-stakes card games haven't been a problem for the Lakers.
"We have about four or five guys that play on our team and they seem to have a wonderful time doing it," Jackson said. "It seems to be really a great release for them and a pastime."
Jackson said he gambled over card games when he played. "I wasn’t very good at it, but I contributed to the action," he said. "We didn’t have charter flights. We flew commercial. And Jerry Lucas had an incredible memory, so he just kept score so we didn’t have to exchange money."
A Blazers official said banning card games on the team plane isn't necessary because it isn't prevalent among their players.
Posted on: January 6, 2010 3:59 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2010 11:45 pm
Citing the serious nature of firearms in the locker room and his "ongoing conduct," NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Gilbert Arenas indefinitely without pay Wednesday pending a league investigation.
“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," Stern said in a statement. "Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA.”
The swift and potentially severe punishment came less than 24 hours after Arenas mocked the criminal and NBA investigation of his possession of firearms in the Wizards' locker room on Dec. 21 by spraying his teammates with fake gunfire in the pre-game huddle in Philadelphia Tuesday night. That brazen act, and Arenas' latest comments after the game that he didn't do anything wrong by bringing guns to work, prompted Stern to act.
"I initially thought it prudent to refrain from taking immediate action because of the pendency of a criminal investigation," said Stern, who was said to have been livid with Arenas' disregard for the matter and for the damage it has done to the league's image
As in the aftermath of the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004, the length of the suspension will be determined by Stern once all the facts are known and the NBA Players Association has a chance to contest the penalty. But multiple sources told CBSSports.com Wednesday that even Arenas' supporters were stunned by his recent conduct and were bracing for a suspension ranging from 10 games to the rest of the season. The indefinite length of the Palace suspensions was a logistical necessity because one of the teams involved, the Pacers, had a game the next night.
Under the NBA Constitution, Stern has the latitude to fine Arenas as much as $50,000 and suspend him for any length of time or indefinitely. With his pregame antics, captured in photos that began circulating online Tuesday night, Arenas also may have jeopardized a vigorous protest from the players' association, sources said. When a smiling Arenas sprayed imaginary gunfire from his fingers as his teammates egged him on, the three-time All-Star created a snapshot of levity and utter disdain amid another serious and debilitating blow to the NBA’s public image.
Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association, declined to comment beyond a statement released by his office that the players' association "will continue to monitor the investigation being conducted by law enforcement authorities and the Commissioner's office."
Any player fined more than $50,000 or suspended for more than 12 games for on-court conduct has the right to have his appeal heard by an independent arbitrator. Behavior in the locker room is included in the CBA's definition of the playing court.
Arenas issued a statement Wednesday through his attorney, Ken Wainstein, apologizing for his behavior and saying that he had called Stern in an attempt to apologize.
“I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action," Arenas said. "I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that."
Stern had been following his usual practice of waiting for the criminal probe to conclude before taking action, an approach that also would've given Arenas to opportunity to fulfill his obligation to cooperate with the league investigation. But the scene in Philadelphia Tuesday night, coupled with Arenas' continuous comments mocking the situation, forced Stern's hand.
There is no dispute that a suspension of some length is warranted, considering Arenas has admitted to violating Article VI, Section 9 of the collective bargaining agreement, which forbids players from possessing firearms on league property or during the course of league business. Arenas also told authorities and stated publicly that he removed four firearms from a locked container on Dec. 21 during a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton. The Wizards first admitted the presence of Arenas' firearms at Verizon Center on Dec. 24, hours after CBSSports.com first reported that the three-time All-Star was under investigation.
Sources familiar with the incident told CBSSports.com that Arenas and Crittenton had a disagreement over a card game on the team's flight from Phoenix to Washington on Dec. 19. Before a practice on Dec. 21, the sources said, Arenas placed the firearms on Crittenton's locker chair and indicated that he should "pick one." Crittenton became angry and knocked the weapons to the ground.
One theory circulating Wednesday among league officials gathered at the D-League Showcase in Boise, Idaho, is that Arenas intended for Crittenton to pick one of the firearms as repayment for the card-game debt. But if true, that would not diminish Arenas' guilt in the eyes of the league or prosecutors in Washington, D.C., where registered firearms are not permitted anywhere but in the home.
For their part, the Wizards issued a strong statement endorsing Stern's decision and invoking the name of late owner Abe Pollin, who had the team's name changed from Bullets to Wizards to avoid associating the franchise with gun violence.
“We fully endorse the decision of the NBA to indefinitely suspend Gilbert Arenas," the Wizards said. "Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert’s recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable. Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert’s behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable. Under Abe Pollin’s leadership, our organization never tolerated such behavior, and we have no intention of ever doing so.”
The Wizards’ options for terminating Arenas’ contract, which has four years and $80.1 million remaining after this season, would be an “uphill battle,” according to an attorney familiar with termination provisions in the CBA. An exception to the “one penalty rule,” which states that players cannot be punished by the league and their team for the same offense, only applies “if the egregious nature of the act or conduct is so lacking in justification as to warrant such double penalty,” according to the CBA. An example of such conduct would be a violent attack against a team official other than a player, a clause that was added after Latrell Sprewell choked then-Golden State head coach P.J. Carlesimo in 1997.
Posted on: January 4, 2010 5:05 pm
Gilbert Arenas met with prosecutors and Washington, D.C., police for two hours Monday, then admitted that his conduct during a confrontation with teammate Javaris Crittenton was "a mistake" and a "serious lapse in judgment."
In a joint statement released with his attorney, Ken Wainstein, Arenas characterized his handling of unloaded firearms in the Washington Wizards' locker room as "a misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate. Contrary to some press accounts, I never threatened or assaulted anyone with the guns and never pointed them at anyone.
"Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong," Arenas said in the statement. "I should not have brought the guns to D.C. in the first place, and I now realize that there’s no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns — even if unloaded.
"I am very sorry for the effect that my serious lapse in judgment has had on my team, my teammates, the National Basketball Association and its fans," the three-time All-Star said. "I want to apologize to everybody for letting them down with my conduct, and I promise to do better in the future."
Wainstein said Arenas was interviewed by federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia and detectives with the Metropolitan Police Department.
"Over the course of a two-hour interview this afternoon, Mr. Arenas answered every question asked of him," Wainstein said.
The version of events that Arenas gave to prosecutors Monday was consistent with what two people with knowledge of the incident told CBSSports.com on Saturday. On Dec. 19, Arenas got into an argument with Crittenton over a card game during the team's flight from Phoenix to D.C. Before practice two days later at Verizon Center, one of the sources said, Arenas placed several firearms on Crittenton's locker chair and indicated that he should "pick one." Crittenton became angry, told Arenas, "Stop your games," and knocked the weapons on the floor, the source said.
In his statement explaining what he told prosecutors and police Monday, Arenas admitted having brought the firearms from his Virginia home to the Verizon Center early last month because he didn't want them around his children. Arenas said four firearms were involved.
"I had kept the four unloaded handguns in my house in Virginia, but then moved them over to my locker at the Verizon Center to keep them away from my young kids," Arenas said. "I brought them without any ammunition into the District of Columbia, mistakenly believing that the recent change in the D.C. gun laws allowed a person to store unloaded guns in the District."
The law, however, allows D.C. residents to keep properly registered firearms in their home -- not in public or in their place of business, two law enforcement sources familiar with the probe said.
Prosecutors and police are expected to interview other witnesses during a fact-finding process that could take several weeks, one of the law enforcement sources said. As of Monday, no interview had been scheduled with Crittenton, whom authorities believe did not possess a firearm during the incident.
In addition to charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies, Arenas also faces the possibility of up to a $50,000 fine and an indefinite suspension from NBA Commissioner David Stern. The league expects to wait until prosecutors complete their investigation before making a decision on any disciplinary measures against Arenas.
Posted on: January 1, 2010 1:11 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2010 11:13 pm