Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas was charged Thursday with felony gun possession, a crime that carries a maximum five years in jail and a fine, authorities said.
The charge was announced Thursday afternoon by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District.
Arenas’s attorney and prosecutors had been negotiating a plea deal during the day and it was not immediately clear whether the filing of charges was a part of the deal. Court officials said they had been told to prepare to have Arenas in Superior Court on Friday.
The U.S. Attorney’s office alleged that on Dec. 21, Arenas “did carry, openly and concealed on or about his person, in a place other than his dwelling place, place of business or on other land possessed by him, a pistol, without license issued pursuant to law.”
The guns became an issue after Arenas and Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton got into an argument after a card game and Crittenton allegedly said he should shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired left knee, sources have said. Days later on Dec. 21, after a practice at Verizon Center, Arenas placed the guns on a chair next to Crittenton’s locker with a note that said “pick one.”
A grand jury began hearing testimony in the case on Jan. 5. But it was not immediately clear whether Thursday’s charges came from the grand jury or directly from prosecutors.
Arenas’s attorney, Kenneth L. Wainstein, could not immediately be located and prosecutors so far have not commented
Also Thursday, D.C. and Arlington police searched Crittenton’s home looking for the gun he reportedly used in the locker room confrontation with Arenas, according to sources familiar with the investigation and court papers.
Police did not find the gun at his Arlington home in the 7:15 a.m. search, Crittenton’s lawyer and the court papers said.
Reached through e-mail, Crittenton’s lawyer, Peter White, said he was not available to talk, but offered this statement:
“I can confirm that a search warrant was executed on Mr. Crittenton’s apartment today, that Mr. Crittenton cooperated with the officers conducting the search, and that no evidence was found or seized by police.”
The police affidavit in support of the warrant was sealed Wednesday by an Arlington judge at the request of investigators, said Theophani Stamos, Arlington’s Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney.
According to the court papers, police were looking for a “silver/chrome-colored semiautomatic handgun with a black handle or similar/like artifact.”
They also were looking for ammunition, holsters, and “any photographs, video footage, or other media depicting the subject posing with a firearm.”
Since Arenas met with law enforcement , Wizards Coach Flip Saunders, team President Ernie Grunfeld and players Fabricio Oberto, Randy Foye, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson, JaVale McGee, Mike Miller and Andray Blatche have also spoken to authorities or the grand jury. Players Antawn Jamison, Mike James, Dominic McGuire, Earl Boykins and Nick Young say they have not been asked to be interviewed.
NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay Jan. 6. Stern said the gun incident, coupled with Arenas making light of the issue on his Twitter account and when he pretended he was shooting teammates in a pregame huddle, had led him to conclude “that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game.”
The incident, which is also being investigated by the NBA, has cast doubt on the future of Arenas’s career at a time when the 28-year-old guard was trying to regain his all-star form after missing the last two seasons following knee surgery.
The Wizards, who endorsed the suspension, have in the past week removed a banner with Arenas’s image on it that covered part of the Sixth Street facade of Verizon Center, stopped displaying Arenas’s No. 0 jersey and removed all references to him in the introductory video played before home games.
Arenas met Wednesday with Billy Hunter, the head of the NBA players union, to discuss his situation. Hunter said Tuesday he wanted to ensure that Arenas receives due process and doesn’t want the punishment to exceed the transgression.
“You don’t use a sledgehammer to drive a tack,” Hunter said. “Right now, we’re just waiting for the investigation to conclude and then we’ll see what level or degree of discipline the commissioner is talking about imposing. And once the commissioner makes his decision, that will determine what extent we get involved and don’t get involved.”