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January 25, 2010

NBA player Javaris Crittenton quickly charged and sentenced for role in Wizards "gun fun"

This press release provides the details concerning the swift (and sound?) form of justice administered to the other player involved in gun play with Gilbert Arenas last month in the locker room of the NBA's Washington Wizards.  Here are the basics:

Javaris Crittenton, a 22-year-old member of the NBA's Washington Wizards, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of an unregistered firearm, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier announced today.  The guilty plea follows an investigation in which it was determined that Javaris Crittenton had brought a firearm to the Verizon Center in December 2009.  This incident followed an argument Crittenton and teammate Gilbert Arenas had on a plane two days earlier.

Crittenton entered his plea this afternoon before Senior Judge Bruce Beaudin in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.  Following the guilty plea, Senior Judge Beaudin sentenced Crittenton to one year of unsupervised probation, and required Crittenton to perform community service through the NBA's Haiti project, and to further perform community service with a children's organization in Washington, DC.

"Possessing a firearm unlawfully in the District of Columbia can lead to nothing but trouble and can have serious consequences" said U.S. Attorney Phillips.  "We commend Mr. Crittenton for accepting responsibility and hope he fully appreciates the gravity of his actions."

According to the factual proffer presented at the plea hearing, on Dec. 19, 2009, into the early morning hours of Dec. 20, 2009, Crittenton and Arenas became involved in a verbal exchange following a card game. In a heated exchange, Arenas stated he was too old to fistfight and threatened to shoot Crittenton in the face.  Crittenton responded that he would shoot Arenas in his surgically-repaired knee.  On the shuttle bus from the airplane to the terminal, Arenas further stated that he was going to burn or blow up Crittenton's car when they came to practice the following Monday.  According to Crittenton, he believed that Arenas intended to harm him.

On Dec. 21, 2009, at approximately 9:00 a.m., Crittenton arrived at the Verizon Center, 601 F Street N.W., Washington, D.C., to receive medical treatment and attend Wizards' practice. According to Crittenton, before he left his home in Virginia for practice that day, Crittenton had placed a lawfully owned, unloaded handgun into his backpack because he believed that Arenas would carry out his threat to shoot him that day....

There is no evidence that Crittenton's firearm was loaded when he pulled it out of his backpack or that Crittenton ever loaded the firearm with ammunition.  There also is no evidence that Crittenton ever chambered a round, pulled back the hammer, raised or pointed the firearm, or otherwise brandished the firearm in a threatening manner at any time during this incident.  After deciding that Arenas did not intend to shoot Crittenton at that time, Crittenton placed his firearm back in his backpack and went from the locker room to the trainer's room.

Based on these "offense facts" as set forth in this press release, it sounds as though Crittenton could and should be a poster child for asserting a Second Amendment defense to his criminal charges in light of the Supreme Court's recognition of an armed self-defense right in Heller.  Of course, the ruling in Helleris formally limited to the home.  Yet its logic and principles would seem to support a claim that Crittenton's behavior in this incident was constitutionally protected.

In a subsequent post, I will pose the question of whether Crittenton's actions should be constitutionally protected ni light of Heller.  In this post, I just wish to note how this case provides a great example of why many criminal defendants, even those with money to hire the best lawyers, will not often be eager to pursue all their potential constitutional defenses.  Like many criminal defendants, Crittenton obviously wants to put this matter behind him ASAP.  Consequently, rather than invest time and expenses raising a (very plausible?) Second Amendment defense to the charges (or even to enter a conditional plea), Crittenton apparently was eager just to get a deal done and try to move on.

Moving on, it will be interesting to see how this plea deal and the facts set out in this press release might impact Gilbert Arenas's fate at his scheduled March sentencing.  Professor Michael McCann is already commenting thoughtfully on this front in this new SI column, which is headlined "Crittenton's plea agreement on gun charges could affect Arenas' future."

January 25, 2010 at 06:07 PM | Permalink


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gun fun? why do we let our sports heroes get away with behavior that we don't allow from other professions? well, maybe it has something to do with the idea that warriors can't stop being warriors off the playing field. so, i guess it's okay, huh? not.

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I think the best season of basketball was in the 80's 90's when Michael Jordan gave a performance on the field really was great pity that that time step, it would be great to see your majesty again.

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