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March 25, 2010

"Jail or no jail? Fateful day arrives for Arenas"

The title of this post is the headline of this new AP piece focused on the high-profile sentencing question that will be answered at a court proceeding in DC on Friday.  Here is some background to help readers opine on the question:

The Washington Wizards three-time All-Star point guard will be sentenced Friday in D.C. Superior Court on one felony count of violating the District of Columbia's strict gun laws. Judge Robert E. Morin will decide whether Arenas does jail time or gets probation. The prosecution and defense teams stated their cases earlier this week in voluminous filings. It's all far beyond anything Arenas imagined on that December morning when he says he brought four guns to the locker room to play a prank on a teammate.

Prosecutors want Arenas to go to jail for at least three months. They point out that he lied repeatedly about why the guns were in the locker room, that he tried to cover up what happened, that he displayed a cavalier attitude about the whole affair, that he knew bringing guns into D.C. was illegal, and that he has a prior gun conviction....

Arenas' lawyers are asking for probation and community service, arguing that he was playing a misguided joke with no intention to harm anybody. They point out that the guns were unloaded, that Arenas' lighthearted comments about the incident were misinterpreted, and that he's a good role model who goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to community service. They add that he was confused about D.C.'s gun laws, and that he's already been severely punished through humiliation and the loss of tens of millions of dollars from canceled endorsements and his suspension without pay for the rest of the NBA season....

The maximum term for Arenas' crime is five years. The sentencing guidelines for someone with his record call for 6-24 months, although those guidelines also allow for probation.

A general survey of similar cases over the last two years in the city indicate that about half of the defendants convicted of Arenas' crime receive some jail time, but the mitigating circumstances vary widely.  Arenas' prior conviction — a no contest plea to carrying a concealed weapon in California in 2003 — was already a major strike against him, and the evidence revealed this week that he appeared to instigate a cover-up — as shown in a text message produced by prosecutors — has further damaged his case....

Gun control advocates will be monitoring Friday's developments closely. Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said he thinks jail time is appropriate in Arenas' case.

I am not at all surprised that gun control advocates are eager to have a prominent person imprisoned merely for possessing a gun and are vocally calling for jail time for Arenas.  I am also not surprised, though I am a but disappointed, that gun rights advocates are not providing any support for Arenas or urging that mere gun possess should not be the basis for a term of imprisonment.  Arenas, like Delonte West and Lil Wayne and Plaxico Buress and other similar celebrities who get in trouble for problematic gun possession in urban areas with strict gun control laws do not seem to be the type of gun owners that many gun rights advocates are eager to make their "test case" in either the media or the courts.

So, dear readers, you be the judge: what would you give Arenas?

Some related posts on the Arenas case and other celebrity gun possession cases:

March 25, 2010 at 06:24 PM | Permalink


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Posted by: Paulinephiliphs | Mar 26, 2010 1:31:35 AM

On what basis, pre-McDonald and Palmer rulings, can we pro-gun folks make a legal argument about his conviction and sentencing?

Heller made possession in the home the standard for DC. Until Palmer is ruled on, which should make DC registration a defacto "carry permit", what could we use as justification? Even then, Arenas didn't have his guns registered in DC. Absent a sea change in their regulations he'd still be guilty.

All that can be done appears to be being done between McDonald and Palmer, until then it's obey the law as is or face the consequences. How can adding problematic cases, which will be johnny-come-lately's to boot, aid the furtherance of gun rights?

Posted by: Matthew Carberry | Mar 26, 2010 2:48:46 AM

I don't think that unlawful gun possession, standing alone, should ordinarily result in a jail or prison sentence, even if the offender has a significant record. On the other hand, he does have a prior gun conviction out of California.

The more serious issue would appear to be the cover up. But without any more details, I do think community service and probation would be appropriate. I don't even think this merits a felony charge if a misdemeanor is available, although I would guess others might consider me a "gun control advocate" since I believe Heller was wrongly decided and I'm in favor of sensible gun regulation.

Posted by: Alec | Mar 26, 2010 5:29:22 PM

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