WASHINGTON - Washington Wizards guard Javaris Crittenton pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge Monday, explaining he had a pistol because he feared teammate Gilbert Arenas would shoot him or blow up his car after the two argued over a card game.
The hearing marked the first time authorities confirmed Crittenton was the other player involved in the confrontation with Arenas, who pleaded guilty Jan. 15 to a felony gun charge.
D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge Bruce Beaudin sentenced Crittenton, 22, to a year of unsupervised probation after Crittenton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of an unregistered firearm. Beaudin ordered Crittenton to mentor young people in Washington and to help with relief efforts for Haiti.
Beaudin didn't order a specific amount of community service but said his lawyer must report regularly on the work.
Crittenton must also pay a $1,000 fine and $250 into a victims' fund.
"I accept full responsibility for my bad judgment, my terrible mistake," Crittenton, who appeared in court wearing a gray suit and glasses, told the judge as he entered the plea. "I'm deeply sorry to the city of Washington, to the Wizards, to my family and to the NBA for this embarrassment."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh said the two players first clashed Dec. 19 over a card game on a team flight back from a game in Phoenix. Arenas said he was too old for a fistfight and threatened to shoot Crittenton in the face, and Crittenton replied he would shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired knee, Kavanaugh said.
Later, Arenas said he would blow up or burn Crittenton's car, Kavanaugh said.
Two days later, Crittenton put his legally owned, unloaded handgun into his backpack before he left his apartment in Arlington, Va., for practice at the Verizon Center, Kavanaugh said.
Crittenton put the backpack in his locker and went to see team trainers, Kavanaugh said. When he returned he saw several guns - Crittenton's lawyer said there were three, not four, as previously reported - on a chair in front of his locker with a sign saying, "Pick 1."
Crittenton tossed one of the guns on the floor and told Arenas to get the weapons off the chair. Then, fearing for his safety, Crittenton took the handgun out of his backpack and showed it to Arenas, Kavanaugh said.
However, Kavanaugh said there is no evidence Crittenton ever threatened anyone with the gun.
Prosecutors said Arenas told Crittenton: "You are going to need more than that little gun."
Kavanaugh said Crittenton voluntarily surrendered his gun to authorities. Police had searched his apartment Jan. 14 but didn't find it.
Crittenton's lawyer, Peter H. White, said his client was scared of Arenas. He emphasized that Crittenton, in his third year in the NBA, did not have the stature on the team that Arenas enjoyed.
White said that after Crittenton tossed one of Arenas' guns on the floor, Arenas said: "If I'm giving you these three guns, imagine what I have in my car."
Arenas has said repeatedly that the situation was a misguided attempt at a joke and that he never intended to hurt anybody.
White told reporters after the hearing that Crittenton wouldn't make any more statements because he is scheduled to meet with NBA officials Tuesday.
Crittenton faces a suspension or fine from the NBA because possession of a gun at an NBA arena is a violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league had no immediate comment on Crittenton's plea.
The Wizards said in a statement Monday that Crittenton used "very bad judgment."
"The charges filed today against Javaris Crittenton and his subsequent plea represent another disappointing development in what has already been a long and frustrating process for the team, the NBA and, most importantly, our fans," the team said.
A spokeswoman for Arenas' lawyer declined to comment on Crittenton's plea. Arenas, who is in the second season of a six-year, $111 million contract and has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA, is scheduled to be sentenced March 26.
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