In hearing, ex-NBA player Clark says he 'never played a game sober'

Updated: December 15, 2007, 7:14 PM ET
Associate Press

DANVILLE, Ill. -- An Illinois judge has tossed out a 2-year prison sentence for former NBA player Keon Clark, saying he deserves a new hearing.

Clark, 32, of Danville, said in Vermilion County Circuit Court on Friday that he is an alcoholic and was drinking a half pint to a pint of gin daily when he was playing pro basketball.

"I never played a game sober, unfortunately," said Clark, who last played for the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns.

Clark said in court that he started drinking in high school and, after he was drafted in the NBA by the Orlando Magic in 1998, he drank at games during halftime.

"It just never stopped," he said.

Judge Michael Clary ruled Clark should get a new sentencing hearing because he did not have legal representation when he was sentenced in absentia Oct. 10 on drug and weapons charges. A new sentencing date has not been set.

"A defendant has a right [to legal representation] at every stage of proceedings, unless they waive that right," Clary said. "There's no waiver by this defendant to not have a lawyer."

Clark was arrested Oct. 18 after U.S. Marshals got a tip that he was on a bus leaving Houston. He was arrested on several Illinois charges, including not having a firearm owner's identification card and possession of a controlled substance. He had been in Texas at a drug and alcohol rehab clinic, according to court records.

Clark's attorney, Tom Mellen, said Clark was finally facing his problems in Texas.

A message left Saturday for Mellen by the Associated Press was not immediately returned.

Clark remains in custody at the Vermilion County Jail.

Clark was originally drafted by the Orlando Magic in 1998, but was traded to the Denver Nuggets, where he played for three years. Clark also played for the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings. He played two games for Utah before being traded to Phoenix in 2004.

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