Webber gets volunteer work, for now

Updated: September 16, 2003, 11:47 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- A federal judge on Tuesday deferred for about two years the sentencing of Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber, who admitted lying to a grand jury about his dealings with a former University of Michigan basketball booster.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds instead ordered a provision to Webber's bond that requires him to volunteer at a six-week summer literacy program at Butzel Middle School in Detroit in the summers of 2004 and 2005. Webber must work at least 150 hours each summer.

Edmunds deferred sentencing until August or September of 2005.

In July, Webber pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of criminal contempt a day before jury selection was to begin in his perjury trial.

Webber and his father, Mayce Webber Jr., were accused of lying about money authorities say the player received from ex-booster Ed Martin. The maximum penalty would have been five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"I believe that Mr. Webber understands the seriousness of his offense, that he is remorseful," Edmunds said at a brief hearing. But she said she was undecided whether to treat Webber's criminal contempt plea as a felony or misdemeanor.

"I don't call this punishment," Webber's attorney, Steve Fishman, said after the hearing. "Chris is looking forward to participating."

Outside the federal courthouse, Webber apologized to his fans, thanked the judge and thanked the people of Detroit and Sacramento for their support. He said he maintains strong emotional ties to the University of Michigan despite the payment scandal.

"My heart bleeds maize and blue," he said. "They were the happiest days of my life."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino said the judge's decision was unprecedented but declined comment on it.

A day after Webber's plea, the charges against his father were dropped for "weak or inadmissible sufficient evidence," according to a court order.

In his plea, Webber admitted lying to the grand jury on Aug. 2, 2000, in saying he did not recall giving money to Martin, who died earlier this year. Webber now acknowledges that in 1994 he gave Martin about $38,000 in cash as partial repayment for expenditures Martin made on his behalf.

Martin, who died in February at age 69, pleaded guilty in 2002 to conspiracy to launder money and told federal prosecutors he took gambling money, combined it with other funds and lent $616,000 to Webber and three other Michigan players.

In November, Michigan imposed sanctions on itself, including a one-year postseason ban, and forfeited 112 regular-season and tournament victories from five seasons, including its victory in the 1992 NCAA semifinal.

In May, the NCAA infractions committee banned Michigan from another year of postseason play, reduced the number of scholarships the school is allowed to have and placed the program on probation.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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