Pacers' Jackson charged with criminal recklessness

Updated: October 12, 2006, 8:42 AM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Now, Stephen Jackson is in trouble in two states.

Stephen Jackson

The Indiana Pacers guard, already on probation for his role in the brawl with Detroit Pistons fans two years ago, was to appear in court Thursday morning to face a felony charge of criminal recklessness and misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct in a fight outside an Indianapolis strip club last week.

Jackson shot a gun in the air at least five times, originally telling authorities he fired in self defense, police said.

But charges were filed Wednesday by Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who said conviction on the felony count alone carries a prison term of six months to three years. He said Jackson could also face three months in jail in Detroit if authorities there determine he has violated his probation.

"Firing the shots in the air at that point is criminal recklessness," Brizzi said. "Those bullets, once they come up, have to come down, and they come down at least 90 miles per hour, and they do absolutely have the ability to take someone's life."

Pacers teammates Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels and Jimmie Hunter were with Jackson at the club, but were not charged. All three of them played in Wednesday night's 103-89 preseason victory over the New Jersey Nets, but Jackson was not with the team at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Coach Rick Carlisle said he expected Jackson to practice Thursday and he could play Saturday when Indiana plays host to Utah.

Tinsley was the only one of the four Pacers at the club who started Wednesday night, and he received a mixed reaction from the crowd when he was introduced before the game. Still, many fans voiced support for the team.

"It's a black eye to the team, but he's human," fan Eugene Lewis of Indianapolis said. "I don't think you should judge the whole team on the actions of one person."

Another fan, Deryck Ramey of Indianapolis, noted the Pacers' close association with the city and the state for almost 40 years.

"This team has always catered to the city, to the state of Indiana," he said. "Regardless of the trouble in Detroit and what happened last week, they've always had that mindset of community first."

After the game, Tinsley said he understood why people might feel disappointed in the team.

"It's disappointing to everybody," he said. "It's a tough situation. It's something that he's got to deal with. We can't control what happens, we've just got to worry about what's going on in this locker room right now."

Jackson returned to training camp Tuesday with stitches in his lip and scrapes and bruises. Prosecutors say the injuries were all caused by the car hitting him.

He also apologized for his actions and said he was "happy to be alive" after being struck by a car outside the club.

The driver of the car, Deon Willford, 23, faces felony counts of criminal recklessness and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, and a misdemeanor count of driving without a license.

Officers said they found a small amount of marijuana in the passenger-side door of Tinsley's car. But no arrests were made at the time because there were three others in Tinsley's car and police could not determine who had the marijuana.

In charging information Wednesday, prosecutors said Jackson kicked a man who police said has a deformed arm. Jackson told police that the man, Quentin Willford, started the brawl. But another man, Raymel Mattox, was charged with misdemeanor counts of battery, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession, and prosecutors said it was Mattox who started the fight.

Pacers president Larry Bird said Jackson was upset by the charges.

"He knows it's a major embarrassment for the franchise," Bird said. "This is a big blow for Stephen. He didn't expect this."

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league was monitoring the situation and would do its own investigation.

Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh said the NBA typically lets players continue to play until such cases are resolved.

New Jersey guard Jay Williams played for the first time since a motorcycle accident nearly ended his career three years ago. He finished with two points in 16 minutes.

Indiana forward Jermaine O'Neal returned from his trial in Detroit over a lawsuit stemming from the brawl with fans there two years ago and dressed for the game but did not play. He missed practice on Tuesday.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press