Webber pleads guilty, likely to avoid jail
DETROIT (AP) -- Chris Webber might have avoided jail time by admitting he lied to a grand jury about money he repaid a former University of Michigan basketball booster.
A day before jury selection was to begin in his perjury trial, the former Michigan player and current Sacramento Kings star pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of criminal contempt. He faces a fine, but the agreement with prosecutors should keep him out of jail.
"I'm relieved that it is in the process of being over," Webber said.
In 2000, Webber said he didn't recall giving money to booster Ed Martin, who died this year. Webber acknowledged he gave Martin about $38,000 in 1994.
Webber originally was charged with lying to a grand jury about money authorities say he received from Martin. Webber could have faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Webber, who had left knee surgery last month, used crutches to walk to a podium in court. He was injured in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against Dallas.
The player will face a fine in the agreement with prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds will decide whether the criminal contempt charge to which he pleaded guilty is a felony or a misdemeanor. Sentencing was set for Sept. 16.
A perjury charge against the player's father, Mayce Webber Jr., is expected to be dropped today, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino said. The father's attorney declined comment.
Martin, who died Feb. 14 at age 69, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to launder money. He admitted he took gambling money, combined it with other funds and lent it to several players while they were in school.
The retired autoworker said he lent $616,000 to Webber and three other Michigan players -- Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock -- while they were amateurs. Martin said he gave Webber and his family $280,000 from 1988-93, a period extending from his freshman year in high school through his sophomore season at Michigan. Webber left for the NBA after helping the Wolverines reach the NCAA title game in both of his college seasons.
Because of rules violations connected to the case, Michigan held its basketball team out of the 2003 postseason, and the NCAA banned the Wolverines from the 2004 postseason. The NCAA also cut scholarships and put the program on probation.
Webber, in the second year of a seven-year, $123-million contract with the Kings, has denied taking anything of significant value from Martin. During his 2000 appearance before the grand jury investigating Martin, Webber said he took money from Martin in high school, but could not remember if he took money in college.
Martin's death left federal prosecutors without the only person who could provide crucial information. The absence of the booster's testimony resulted in the charges against Webber's aunt being thrown out in May. An obstruction of justice charge against Webber also was dismissed in June.