Gilbert Arenas' troubles did not come to an end Monday when he met with prosecutors and police in Washington, D.C., to explain what he was doing with four firearms in the Wizards' locker room last month. This may only be the beginning, according to two Washington law enforcement officials familiar with the state and federal probe sparked by what the three-time All-Star characterized as "a misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate."
Arenas' contrition in a joint statement with his attorney after meeting for two hours with police and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia is not expected to sway authorities who are weighing whether to charge Arenas with any crimes, the sources said. Neither is the fact that Arenas is claiming to have been unaware that a recent change in the District's firearms law did not allow the possession of guns outside the home, one of those law enforcement officials said.
"The U.S. Attorney will have to file charges for possession of a pistol without a license," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not have jurisdiction over the case. "The prosecutor cannot simply walk away from this case."
Depending on what facts are discovered in other interviews with possible witnesses to the Dec. 21 locker room confrontation between Arenas and previously obscure guard Javaris Crittenton, the official said one likely outcome would be the following: Arenas, 27, would be permitted to plead guilty to charges of carrying a pistol without a license, a felony that carries a maximum of five years in prison. Such a charge would require a grand jury indictment, which could be acquired quickly since five grand juries are seated at any given time in the District.
Any other charges -- which could include misdemeanor counts for possession of unregistered firearms, carrying maximum jail time of six months for each count -- would be dismissed. In exchange for Arenas' cooperation and guilty plea, the prosecutor would ask for no jail time.
"Given his prior offense, however, a judge might consider jail time in this case," one of the law enforcement officials said. "It all depends on which judge he draws."
Thread: Talk Arenas, Crittenton!
Arenas pleaded guilty to charges of failing to maintain proper registration of a firearm in California in 2003 while playing for the Golden State Warriors.
Arenas, who had spent several days mocking the incident with public comments and via his Twitter account before admitting fault in postgame interviews Saturday night at Verizon Center, reiterated Monday that he'd brought the guns from his Virginia home to the Wizards locker room because he didn't want them near his young children. CBSSports.com first reported on Dec. 24 that Arenas was under investigation for possession of firearms on team property, a clear violation of NBA rules.
"On Monday, December 21st, I took the unloaded guns out in a misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate," Arenas said in his statement. "Contrary to some press accounts, I never threatened or assaulted anyone with the guns and never pointed them at anyone."
But one of the law enforcement officials said Arenas' intent would not exonerate him; in fact, the official said, the investigation could be expanded to include D.C.'s Office of the Attorney General, which also has jurisdiction over state crimes. Prosecutors are not amused by the prank Arenas said he played on Crittenton, which CBSSports.com reported Saturday, included placing several firearms on Crittenton's locker chair and indicating that he should "pick one." This was the continuation of a disagreement between the players over a card game during a team flight from Phoenix to D.C. on Dec. 19, two sources said.
"Gun cases are taken very seriously in D.C.," one of the officials said. "He's got some problems on his hands, because even if it was a joke -- and this is where people get themselves in trouble -- he's basically admitted in the press that he violated the law. He thinks, 'If I didn't assault a guy, it's cool.' It's not cool."
Neither Crittenton nor any other members of the Wizards organization joined Arenas in front of the authorities Monday, and a person with knowledge of the situation said no interview with Crittenton has been scheduled. Other players, security officials, and possibly coach Flip Saunders could be brought in for questioning as witnesses, one of the law enforcement officials said.
Washington, D.C., is perhaps the last place in the country where one would want to run afoul of firearms laws. The possible exception is New York City, where mandatory sentencing guidelines resulted in a two-year prison sentence for former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress after the Super Bowl hero accidentally shot himself in the leg at a night club in November 2008. The District does not have mandatory sentencing, but it was the site of a controversial total gun ban that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2008. The revised law, according to legal officials familiar with it, permits properly registered handguns in the home but not in public or in a person's place of business.
"The policy behind that couldn't be more manifested than in a case like this -- a situation where tempers flare and you've got guns around," one of the officials said. "There were definitely some manhood issues here."
Coincidentally, the D.C. gun law perfectly mirrors NBA Commissioner David Stern's stated attitude toward firearms. Addressing the issue after then-Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson had fired a handgun in the air outside a strip club, Stern said in October 2006: "I would favor being able to have a firearm to protect your home. Period."
Once the extent of Arenas' legal problem is known, the three-time All-Star will then have to contend with Stern, who has the authority to fine Arenas as much as $50,000 and suspend him indefinitely under personal conduct rules in the collective bargaining agreement. If Arenas pleaded guilty to or was convicted of a felony, it would carry an automatic 10-game suspension.