- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2010

WASHINGTON | No jail. But no round-the-clock freedom, either, for Gilbert Arenas.

The judge found a halfway point — literally — between prison and probation Friday when he sentenced the three-time NBA All-Star to 30 days in a halfway house for bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room.

Arenas remained expressionless as District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin described a litany of conditions associated with the sentence — two years of probation, a $5,000 fine, 400 hours of community service that can’t be done at basketball clinics — then turned to his lawyer for an explanation of what it all meant. After several minutes discussing logistics, Arenas eventually cracked a smile while talking to a court official.

Arenas made no comment leaving the courthouse, but his lawyer Ken Wainstein released a statement signaling his client considered the outcome a victory.

“The result was a sentence that serves justice very well,” the statement said. “Mr. Arenas is grateful to the court, and looks forward to serving the community and once again being a force for good in the District of Columbia.”

MORE COVERAGE: Saunders: Arenas’ sentence ‘closure’

The halfway house was an unexpected resolution to weeks of suspense as to whether Arenas would be sent to jail. Prosecutors wanted him locked up for three months for the felony gun possession charge, while Arenas’ lawyers had sought community service and probation.

It will be at least five days before Arenas begins his time. Halfway houses provide a structured environment with nightly curfews and other rules, but residents are not locked down. They usually feature a community-living environment.

“It is not a jail,” said Edmond Ross, spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons. “They do have to abide by the rules and regulations.”

Addressing the judge before sentencing, Arenas sighed heavily and apologized, saying, “Every day, I wake up wishing it did not happen.”

He then explained several of his actions that have come under criticism, including evidence that he tried to cover up what happened by getting teammate Javaris Crittenton to change his story. Arenas said he was just trying to get Crittenton off the hook.

“I thought by lying and screwing the truth I could protect people I consider family,” Arenas said. “I figured I could fix it by taking the fall.”

His voice cracking, Arenas disputed claims by prosecutors that he did not take his crime seriously, reiterating the “I’m a goof ball” defense he used with reporters in the days following the incident. He specifically referred to his gunslinging pantomime before a Wizards game at Philadelphia, when he pretended to shoot his laughing teammates during a pregame huddle.

“I like to make people laugh, to make people smile,” Arenas said. “For everybody else, I’m taking it lightly. I’m looking at a picture where 14 or 15 guys are laughing together for the last time.”

Arenas’ arrest arose from a dispute with Crittenton over a card game during a team flight on Dec. 19. It escalated two days later when Arenas brought four guns to the locker room and set them in front of Crittenton’s locker with a sign telling him to “PICK 1.” Crittenton then took out his own gun.

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