BY STEVE JACKSON
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 9, 2002
Former Michigan basketball star Chris Webber was indicted yesterday in Detroit on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and giving false testimony before a grand jury.
Webber, who currently plays for the Sacramento Kings, could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison with a maximum fine of $500,000 if convicted on both counts.
The indictment also states that Webber's father, Mayce Webber, and aunt, Charlene Johnson, will face the same charges.
Webber and his family allegedly committed these crimes in August of 2000 by conspiring to withhold information relating to Webber's involvement with Ed Martin, a former Michigan booster who was facing federal charges for running an illegal gambling ring in Detroit.
In May, Martin pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to launder money. He admitted that he loaned money from his illegal gambling ring to at least four former Michigan basketball players, including Webber.
Martin said that he loaned $280,000 to Webber, $160,000 to Robert Traylor, $105,000 to Maurice Taylor and $71,000 to Louis Bullock.
The Ed Martin saga began on Feb. 17, 1996, when Taylor crashed his Ford Explorer while a number of teammates and potential recruits were in the vehicle. The car accident triggered the first of three investigations into the Michigan basketball program.
Those investigations led to the firing of head coach Steve Fisher, who along with Chris Webber and the "Fab Five" led the Wolverines to back-to-back appearances in the Final Four.
None of the University's investigations could turn up a major NCAA violation. But those sorts of violations may have been hidden by Webber and his family.
"The conclusions reached by the University of Michigan Report of Self-Examination that were forwarded to and relied upon by the NCAA, contained false information based in part on the false information that was caused to be provided by the defendants," the federal indictment read.
Should the facts prove that Michigan violated NCAA guidelines, the basketball program could face television or post-season bans. The NCAA could also take away scholarships or force Michigan to forfeit games.
University officials refused to comment on the most recent developments in the case against Chris Webber, but Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said he is frustrated with how slowly this entire ordeal has unfolded.
"The major issue here is that timing is not controlled by the University," Martin said. "If we were in control, this would have been resolved a long time ago. But this is a very serious matter, and we should not be speculating about it in the press."
Although the process has not gone as expeditiously as he had hoped, Martin said he is still optimistic that the issue will be resolved "relatively soon."
"We are cooperating fully with the investigation," Martin said. "It's our job to find the facts and take them to the NCAA so that it can make a fair and just decision.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Gina Balaya said the timetable for Webber's trial has not been set.
"We still have to meet with the defense attorneys before we can determine a time," Balaya said.