Iverson cleared of all but a misdemeanor

Monday, July 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Allen Iverson arrived at the courthouse in a three-car convoy, led by an unmarked car with a siren.

The NBA star left after a chaotic six-hour hearing Monday in which he was cleared of all but a misdemeanor.

``People will say if Allen Iverson wins this case, he won it because of celebrity,'' said Guy Sciolla, a defense lawyer in the case. ``And it's the irony in this case that the only reason he got arrested was because of celebrity.''

More than 100 people packed the courtroom, including lawyers and court staff not connected to the case. One court officer was seen handing Iverson a slip of paper to sign, while another law enforcement official shook Iverson's hand.

The Philadelphia 76ers guard wore a white T-shirt and showed little expression during the hearing.

Iverson had been charged with storming into his cousin's apartment with a gun and threatening two men while looking for his wife.

``I think that no one has the right to go into someone's apartment, no matter who they are, and try to use threats or force in order to get information,'' Assistant District Attorney Charles Ehrlich said. ``And that's what this case is really all about.''

Two counts of making terroristic threats were left standing after the preliminary hearing to determine whether prosecutors had enough evidence to try Iverson.

``It sounds like you had a relative looking for a relative at the house of a relative,'' Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon said.

The 76ers applauded the judge's decision.

``We look forward to the resolution of the remaining issue in this matter,'' the team said, ``so that both Allen and the 76ers can return their full focus where it properly belongs _ on the basketball court.''

The ruling followed testimony from Iverson cousin Shaun Bowman and the two accusers, Charles Jones and his friend Hakim Carey. They disagreed on several key points, including whether the player was carrying a gun.

The 27-year-old Iverson, the NBA MVP in the 2000-01 season and a three-time league scoring champion, was accused of throwing his wife, Tawanna, out of their home, then barging into Bowman's apartment July 3.

Iverson was arrested on 14 felony and misdemeanor charges, including assault, terroristic threats and weapons offenses. Iverson's uncle, Gregory Iverson, also was charged. He, too, now faces only the two misdemeanor counts.

The original charges against Iverson carried a maximum sentence of more than 50 years. Prosecutors said they hadn't decided whether to refile the charges.

After the accusations surfaced, hordes of reporters and photographers camped outside Iverson's suburban mansion in the days before he surrendered July 16 to face the charges.

Jones, Bowman's 21-year-old roommate, told police he awakened July 3 to find Iverson standing over him, cursing and threatening. He said Iverson lifted his shirt to show a black handgun tucked in his waistband and declared, ``I'm about to do something.''

Carey initially told police he also saw a gun. Under cross-examination, however, Carey testified that Jones pressured him to tell police Iverson had a weapon. Carey testified he had merely seen a black object in Iverson's waistband and did not ``jump to conclusions'' about what it was.

Carey, 18, said Jones talked him into going to the police. The teenager said he feared he'd be harmed _ even shot _ if he became known in Philadelphia as Iverson's accuser.

Carey and Jones disagreed on many other key points, leading defense attorney Richard Sprague to tell the judge: ``I call for the court to give a ringing dismissal of these charges.''

Bowman testified that Iverson paid the rent and had permission to enter the apartment. Bowman also said Jones offered to drop the accusations if Iverson paid $100,000.

As a teenager in 1993, Iverson was arrested after a bowling-alley brawl and spent four months in jail in Virginia before he was granted clemency by the governor. The conviction was later overturned.

In 1997, Iverson pleaded no contest to gun possession.

He also made an unreleased rap CD in which he disparaged women and gays. He's also clashed several times with 76ers coach Larry Brown.

Through it all, Iverson remains immensely popular. His jersey is the among the league's top sellers, and Reebok last year gave him a lifetime extension of his 10-year, $50 million endorsement contract.