WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas pleaded guilty on Friday to carrying a pistol without a license in the District of Columbia, a felony conviction that could jeopardize his future in the NBA.
Arenas pleaded guilty to a single count of violating the city's strict gun laws as part of a plea bargain in D.C. Superior Court. He will remain free at least until his sentencing on March 26.
The charge stems from a Dec. 21 incident in which Arenas admitted he stored guns in his locker at the Verizon Center and took them out to play a joke on a teammate.
The NBA has suspended him indefinitely. A pre-sentence report is not yet complete, but defense attorney Kenneth Wainstein said Friday that prosecutors have agreed not to seek a sentence longer than the low end of sentencing guidelines, which call for six months to two years. That could include probation, jail time or some combination. Judge Robert E. Morin emphasized he is not bound by prosecutors' recommendation.
Arenas "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 by his conduct," Wainstein said in a statement.
Prosecutor Chris Kavanaugh, reading in court from a statement of facts that Arenas agreed to, said the charge stemmed from a Dec. 19 dispute with another player over a card game. Kavanaugh did not identify the other player, but authorities have searched the home of teammate Javaris Crittenton for a gun.
Kavanaugh said the disagreement developed during a team flight back. The other player offered to settle matters with a fist fight, but Arenas, 28, said he was too old for that and suggested he would instead burn the other player's car or shoot him in the face. The argument on the plane ended with the other player saying he would shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired knee.
Two days later, Kavanaugh said, Arenas brought at least one gun to the Verizon Center in a black backpack. He laid out four guns on a chair in front of the other player's locker with a sign saying, "Pick one."
When the other player asked, "What is this?" Arenas responded: "You said you were going to shoot me. Pick one."
The other player said he had his own gun, threw one of Arenas' weapons across the room and then displayed his own firearm, Kavanaugh said.
Since Arenas first acknowledged keeping guns in his locker, he has publicly employed a "goof ball" defense, claiming he wasn't aware of the law, meant no harm and never takes anything seriously. But he was subdued in court on Friday.
U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said in a statement that "playing with firearms is no joke."
The three-time NBA All-Star earlier acknowledged storing four unloaded guns in his locker, saying he wanted to keep them away from his young children and didn't know it was a violation of the city's strict gun laws. He says he took them out of the locker in a "misguided effort to play a joke" on a teammate.
On Thursday, Crittenton had his northern Virginia apartment searched by police looking for a silver- or chrome-colored semiautomatic handgun with a black handle. The search warrant indicated police were investigating crimes that include brandishing a weapon. No evidence was seized, according to court documents, and Crittenton has not been charged.
Crittenton has previously said he did nothing wrong.
Even if Arenas avoids jail, the outcome of the legal process will have important implications on his future in the NBA and specifically with the Wizards. Possession of a gun at an NBA arena is a violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement, and last week commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay pending the outcome of the investigation, a move supported by the Wizards.
Stern was particularly upset that Arenas repeatedly joked about the matter with reporters and on Twitter.