Chris Webber’s attorney, Steven Fishman, accused prosecutors Wednesday of “vindictiveness” and requested that a federal judge dismiss the charges against the Sacramento Kings star.
Webber, a former Michigan basketball star, was indicted Sept. 9 along with his father and aunt on charges of obstruction of justice and giving false testimony in front of the grand jury. Webber’s allegedly false statements, given on Aug. 2, 2000, were in reference to his dealings with former Michigan booster Ed Martin, who was under federal investigation for running an illegal gambling ring in Detroit. Martin claimed that he loaned Webber $280,000 before the star became a professional, a charge Webber has repeatedly denied.
“The government was unable to specify even one answer in the indictment as being allegedly false,” Fishman said in his written motion to dismiss.
Fishman also claimed that Webber was unprepared and that prosecutors badgered him on the stand, interrupting his requests with further lines of questioning. “It quickly became apparent that regardless of his conversations with his agent, Mr. Webber was unsure as to the nature and purpose of a grand jury proceeding.”
Grand jury witnesses that are not targets of the investigation frequently meet with prosecutors and their own lawyers to go over areas that are to be introduced during questioning. But that didn’t happen in Webber’s case. He was represented by his agent Fallasha Erwin, an attorney who specializes in sports contracts rather than criminal law.
“Neither Mr. Webber nor his agent received any documents of any type to refresh his recollection about anything,” Fishman wrote.
In the partial transcripts that have been made public, Webber often appears confused and disoriented. So much so that at one point, he was unable to recall the specific years he attended the University (August 1991 through May 1993).
“I don’t understand” and “I’m not sure” were Webber’s most frequent responses to the questions included in the brief.
“That was high school,” Webber said in court. “What I’m saying is I do not recall specifically the dates and times you asked me. I answered every question to the best of my ability.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, the lead prosecutor in the case, told the Sacramento Bee that he would respond to Fishman’s claims – in court and in writing.
The defense’s motions will be heard after a Dec. 9 conference with Judge Nancy Edmunds.
– The Associated Press
contributed to this report.