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Charges against Webber reduced

BY

BY GENNARO FILICE

DAILY SPORTS EDITOR



Published June 15, 2003

During Thursday's pre-trial hearing, federal prosecutors dropped obstruction of justice charges against Sacramento King and former Michigan star Chris Webber and his father, Mayce Webber. But, Chris's attorney Steve Fishman said the duo still faces four counts of perjury.

The obstruction of justice charges were dropped when the defense made a motion for a Bill of Particulars, which asked Judge Nancy Edmunds to make the prosecution clarify exactly what it was that they were claiming the Webbers had done. Without key witness and former Michigan basketball booster Ed Martin, who died last February, Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Corbett said that the prosecution would dismiss the obstructions count.

"(Webber now) faces fewer counts rather than more counts," Fishman said. "Any time you get rid of one theory of the prosecution, it's significant."

Last month, the prosecution dismissed both perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Webber's aunt, Charlene Johnson, for the same reason.

"According to the government, (charges against Johnson) were dropped because Mr. Martin is no longer here to give his version of events," Fishman said.

All three Webbers were indicted last September on charges of lying to a federal grand jury in 2000. The grand jury was investigating an illegal gambling ring run in Detroit auto plants by Martin. The allegations said Webber received some of Martin's illegal proceeds while attending Detroit Country Day High School and Michigan (1988-1993). The trio denied receiving any type of loan from Martin.

But in May 2002, Martin pleaded guilty to giving $616,000 to Webber and three other Michigan basketball players (Robert Traylor, Maurice Taylor and Louis Bullock). According to Martin, Webber received $280,000 - by far the largest sum of the four.

Webber continues to deny ever receiving substantial funds from Martin.

Judge Edmunds moved the trial back a week from its original date to July 15. Edmunds also granted the defense's motion to strike all aliases from the case; the government cannot refer to the Webbers by nicknames in the trial.

The University recently severed all ties with Webber.


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