Wizards' Arenas gets 30 days in halfway house
Those famous 2 a.m. visits to the gym to work on his game? That's one Gilbert Arenas quirk the judge made sure won't happen, at least for the 30 days Arenas is subject to curfew at a halfway house.
Otherwise, Arenas can't have much reason to complain about the sentence levied Friday in his felony gun case. District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin opted not to send the three-time NBA All-Star to jail for bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room.
``The result was a sentence that serves justice very well,'' Arenas' lawyer, Ken Wainstein, said in a statement. ``Mr. Arenas is grateful to the court, and looks forward to serving the community and once again being a force for good in the District of Columbia.''
The other statement issued after the sentencing offered less clarity about Arenas' future. The Wizards, who have become an embarrassment and a bottom-feeder in the NBA in part because of Arenas' troubles - the team set a record with its 14th straight loss Friday night - announced it was time for the team to be moving on, but there was no indication whether Arenas would be a part of it.
``We are confident that he has learned something significant from the experience,'' said the statement issued by president Ernie Grunfeld and the team owners, ``and we now look forward to moving on and focusing on building this team into the contender that our outstanding fans deserve.''
Arenas is already serving a league suspension through the end of the season for having guns in the locker room. The Wizards could attempt to void the last four years of his six-year, $111 million contract, although the NBA players' union has vowed to fight such a move. Grunfeld indicated in recent weeks that Arenas would be welcomed back, and Arenas has said he'd have no problem returning, but the final decision could rest with Ted Leonsis, the Washington Capitals owner who is expected to complete a purchase of the Wizards in the coming weeks.
Arenas also received two years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 400 hours of community service that can't be performed at basketball clinics. The halfway house was an unexpected development that he seemed not to digest right away - he showed little emotion, then turned to his lawyer for an explanation of what it all meant. After several minutes discussing logistics, Arenas eventually cracked a smile while talking to a court official.
Halfway houses provide inmates a structured environment with nightly curfews and other rules, but residents are not locked down. They usually feature a community-living environment. Arenas will be assigned a halfway house within a five-day period.
``It is not a jail,'' said Edmond Ross, spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons. ``They do have to abide by the rules and regulations.''
Dressed in a blue suit, Arenas signed autographs before entering the courthouse and smiled slightly as he walked into the courtroom. Addressing the judge before sentencing, he sighed heavily and apologized, saying, ``Every day, I wake up wishing it did not happen.''
He then explained several of his actions that have come under intense criticism, including evidence that he tried to get teammate Javaris Crittenton to engage in a cover-up. Arenas said he was just trying to get Crittenton off the hook.
``I thought by lying and screwing the truth I could protect people I consider family,'' Arenas said. ``I figured I could fix it by taking the fall.''
His voice cracking, Arenas disputed claims by prosecutors that he did not take his crime seriously. He specifically referred to his gunslinging pantomime before a Wizards game at Philadelphia, when he pretended to shoot his laughing teammates during a pregame huddle. The NBA suspended him the next day.
``I like to make people laugh, to make people smile,'' Arenas said. ``For everybody else, I'm taking it lightly. I'm looking at a picture where 14 or 15 guys are laughing together for the last time.''
Arenas' arrest arose from a dispute with Crittenton over a card game during a team flight on Dec. 19. It escalated two days later when Arenas brought four guns to the locker room and set them in front of Crittenton's locker with a sign telling him to ``PICK 1.'' Crittenton then took out his own gun.
Crittenton eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received a year of unsupervised probation, and that appeared to carry significant weight with the judge when sentencing Arenas. Morin went out of his way to say that he was treating Arenas like any other defendant rather than as a basketball star, implying Arenas shouldn't receive a more severe sentence just because he is a bigger celebrity than Crittenton.
Morin listed several other factors for not sending Arenas to jail. He noted that Arenas' prior guns-related conviction - a misdemeanor in California in 2003 - was a nonviolent offense. He pointed out that Arenas' guns were obtained lawfully in Virginia, where Arenas lives, and were not loaded when brought them to the locker room.
While Morin admonished Arenas and Crittenton for committing a ``stupid and immature act,'' he also cited Arenas' lengthy record of ``charity and kindness'' that showed Arenas to be ``a decent person.'' He also said he was satisfied that Arenas understood the seriousness of his actions and would not be a repeat offender.
``You are genuinely remorseful, and you get it,'' Morin said.
Arguing for jail time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh said Arenas had made ``a mockery of the judicial system'' by treating the criminal investigation as a joke. He pointed out that Arenas initially lied when asked why the guns were brought to the locker room, and said any other defendant with a similar criminal record would not be given merely probation and community service.
``It sends a message,'' Kavanaugh said, ``that if given enough, if you have a more leveraged position, that you too can avoid the dire consequences of that bad decision making.''