Wed, Jul 16, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Webber decides to enter a guilty plea in his perjury trial

AP , DETROIT, MICHIGAN

On the eve of his federal perjury trial, Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of criminal contempt in a deal that is expected to allow him to avoid prison time.

Webber had been charged with lying to a grand jury about money authorities say he received from former University of Michigan basketball booster Ed Martin. He could have faced up to five years in prison and a fine of US$250,000.

During Monday's hearing, the former Michigan player admitted that in 1994 he gave Martin about US$38,000 in cash as repayment for past expenditures the former booster made on his behalf.

"I'm relieved that it is in the process of being over," Webber said after the hearing.

In the agreement with prosecutors, Webber will face a fine. US District Judge Nancy Edmunds will decide whether the criminal contempt charge is a felony or a misdemeanor. Sentencing was set for Sept. 16.

A perjury charge against the player's father, Mayce Webber Jr., is expected to be dropped Tuesday, Assistant US Attorney Richard Convertino said. The father's attorney declined to comment.

Martin, who died Feb. 14 at age 69, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to launder money. He admitted he took gambling money, combined it with other funds and lent it to several players while they were in school.

The retired autoworker said he lent US$616,000 to Webber and three other Wolverines players -- Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock -- while they were amateurs. Martin said he gave Webber and his family US$280,000 from 1988-1993, a period extending from his freshman year in high school through his sophomore season at Michigan.

Because of NCAA violations connected to the case, Michigan was banned from postseason play in 2003 and 2004, and forfeited 112 regular-season and tournament victories from five seasons, plus its victory in the 1992 NCAA semifinal.

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