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Webber pleads guilty to criminal contempt

BY GENNARO A. FILICE IV

DAILY SPORTS EDITOR

Published July 14, 2003

A day before his trial for perjury was set to begin, Chris
Webber pleaded guilty on Monday to a smaller charge of criminal contempt,
according to an assistant in the chambers of U.S. District Judge
Nancy Edmunds. The former Michigan and current Sacramento Kings
superstar will be fined but will probably not face jail time.

The trial of Chris and Mayce Webber was supposed to start
today with jury selection. The duo had faced a maximum of five
years in prison and a $250,000 fine for lying to a federal jury in
2000.

The final decision on Chris' punishment - including whether the
crime will be a misdemeanor or felony - will occur in Edmunds'
sentencing, which is set for September 16. Mayce's charges were dropped today.

"I'm relieved that it is in the process of being over," Chris
said.

This trial spawns from a grand jury investigation of former
Michigan booster Ed Martin. The grand jury was inspecting an
illegal gambling ring run in Detroit auto plants by Martin.
Allegations said Webber received some of Martin's illegal proceeds
while attending Detroit Country Day High School and the University
(1988-1993). Both Webber's and Chris's aunt, Charlene Johnson,
denied receiving any loans from Martin when called to the
stand.

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.

Following this testimony, the trio was indicted last September
on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.

After Martin died of natural causes at the age of 69 on February
14, a chain of events occurred in the defense's favor.

First, all charges against Johnson were dropped in May.

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

In June, the prosecution dropped the obstruction of justice
charges against both the Webbers, again citing Martin's absence as
the cause.

Then last Tuesday, the defense prevailed once more when Justice
Edmunds disallowed key evidence, including Martin's hand-written
notes that chronicled his money laundering to Webber.

In yesterday's hearing, Webber admitted to reimbursing Martin
$38,000 in cash.

Under NCAA regulation addressing Martin's generosity, Michigan
basketball will undergo a second year of post-season probation in
2004 (in 2003, a postseason ban was self imposed). The NCAA also
forced the program to forfeit 112 games from the 1990s and imposed
a loss of one scholarship each year for four years that will start
in the 2004-05 academic year.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.