Monday January 25th, 2010

Washington Wizards guard Javaris Crittenton was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation on Monday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun possession charge stemming from a locker room incident with teammate Gilbert Arenas. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a second misdemeanor charge of attempting to carry a pistol without a license.

Crittenton's plea deal could affect the legal and professional interests of Arenas, who on Jan. 15 pleaded guilty to a felony for carrying an unlicensed pistol outside a home or business. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 26. Arenas faces up to five years in prison, though prosecutors will reportedly ask that he not receive more than six months.

Crittenton's reported account of what happened on the team flight and in the Wizards' locker room will likely be shared with the court. It will not portray Arenas in a positive light. Arenas, according to the account, suggested that he and Crittenton resolve a card game argument by having Arenas either set Crittenton's vehicle ablaze or shoot Crittenton in the face. Two days later in the Wizards' locker room, Arenas allegedly positioned four guns in front of Crittenton's locker and left written instruction that Crittenton pick one of the guns.

Arenas maintains the incidents on the flight and in the locker room were part of a joke, though Crittenton's alleged reaction -- Crittenton said he felt genuinely threatened and only carried and pulled out his own gun because he feared for his life -- suggests at a minimum that it offended him or that he took Arenas' threats at face value. D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin, who will sentence Arenas, may regard Arenas' alleged behavior as so irresponsible that it warrants time behind bars.

Crittenton will also meet with NBA commissioner David Stern, who has suspended Arenas indefinitely. Crittenton's comments during the meeting could damage Arenas' chances for reinstatement if he portrays Arenas as a dangerous bully or aggressor. The Wizards may also find that Crittenton's comments lend justification for a termination of Arenas' contract under Clause 16 of the Uniform Player Contract, a topic I detailed in a previous column.

Arenas, however, will have opportunities to speak with Judge Morin, as well as with Stern and Wizards officials. Arenas will likely maintain that what took place was a joke that went awry, that he never intended to hurt or legitimately threaten anyone, and that he is genuinely sorry for what happened. It will be interesting to see whether any witnesses, either from the flight or locker room, emerge, as they may be able to provide the situational context that would corroborate either Crittenton or Arenas.

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