Webber pleads guilty to criminal contempt, expected to avoid prison

Monday, July 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of criminal contempt in a deal that is expected to allow him to avoid prison time.

Webber had been charged with lying to a federal grand jury about money authorities say he received from former Michigan basketball booster Ed Martin.

Jury selection in Webber's federal perjury had been scheduled to begin Tuesday.

In the agreement with prosecutors, Webber will face a fine. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds will decide whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor. Sentencing was set for Sept. 16.

Charges against the former University of Michigan player's father, Mayce Webber Jr., are expected to be dropped, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino said.

Chris Webber left the courtroom Monday without talking to reporters.

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 loaned $616,000 to Webber and three other Wolverines 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 had told the grand jury investigating Martin's dealings that 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 about the money and gifts. 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.

The prosecution was dealt another blow last week, when the judge ruled they could not present key testimony and evidence, including notes kept by Martin that appeared to indicate that Webber borrowed money from him while playing in high school and college.

Prosecutors also would have been prohibited from calling other players to testify about amounts they said they received from Martin.