Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Wizards’ Arenas pleads guilty to felony gun charges

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas pleaded guilty on Friday to felony weapons possession and faces up to six months in prison under his plea deal for bringing four guns into the team’s locker room.

Arenas, 28, who signed a six-year, US$111 million contract in the summer of 2008, has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA over last month’s incident at the Verizon Center.

Arenas, who has said the guns were unloaded, entered the guilty plea to the single felony count during a standing-room-only hearing that lasted just under 30 minutes in District of Columbia (DC) Superior Court.

The charge, carrying a pistol without a license in violation of DC law, carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and Judge Robert Morin told Arenas he was not necessarily bound by the plea deal.

A tentative sentencing date of March 26 was set, pending a sentencing report that could take up to eight weeks. However, the lawyer for Arenas, Kenneth Wainstein, pressed for an earlier sentencing date.

Morin asked Arenas whether he understood the terms of the plea agreement and that he would be giving up certain rights under the deal.

He replied softly but firmly: “Yes sir.”

Wainstein and Arenas, with his head slightly bowed, left the courtroom without comment.

In a statement, Wainstein said his client “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.”

Prosecutor Chris Kavanaugh told reporters: “We are pleased with the disposition.”

A multi-story banner of Arenas outside the Wizards’ Verizon Center home in downtown Washington was taken down after the incident and the team has removed all ­Arenas-related merchandise from the building’s souvenir stands.

Arenas played in only 15 games over the past two years because of an injury to his left knee, but returned this season to lead the Wizards in scoring.

Despite Arenas’ return, the Wizards have struggled this season and at 12-25 are tied for the third-worst record in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The Wizards have lost four of five games since the NBA suspended the guard.

“Gilbert Arenas has been a cornerstone of the Washington Wizards for six years. We are deeply saddened and disappointed in his actions that have led to the events of this afternoon,” the Wizards said in a statement.

“Gilbert used extremely poor judgment and is ultimately responsible for his own actions,” the statement said.

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