WASHINGTON — No jail. But no round-the-clock freedom, either, for Gilbert Arenas.
The judge found a halfway point – literally – between prison and probation Friday when he sentenced the three-time NBA All-Star to 30 days in a halfway house for bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room.
Arenas remained expressionless as District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin described a litany of conditions associated with the sentence – two years of probation, a $5,000 fine, 400 hours of community service that can't be done at basketball clinics – then turned to his lawyer for an explanation of what it all meant. After several minutes discussing logistics, Arenas eventually cracked a smile while talking to a court official.
Arenas made no comment leaving the courthouse, but his lawyer Ken Wainstein released a statement signaling his client considered the outcome a victory.
"The result was a sentence that serves justice very well," the statement said. "Mr. Arenas is grateful to the court, and looks forward to serving the community and once again being a force for good in the District of Columbia."
The halfway house was an unexpected resolution to weeks of suspense as to whether Arenas would be sent to jail. Prosecutors wanted him locked up for three months for the felony gun possession charge, while Arenas' lawyers had sought community service and probation.
It will be at least five days before Arenas begins his time. Halfway houses provide a structured environment with nightly curfews and other rules, but residents are not locked down. They usually feature a community-living environment.
"It is not a jail," said Edmond Ross, spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons. "They do have to abide by the rules and regulations."
Addressing the judge before sentencing, Arenas sighed heavily and apologized, saying, "Every day, I wake up wishing it did not happen."
He then explained several of his actions that have come under criticism, including evidence that he tried to cover up what happened by getting teammate Javaris Crittenton to change his story. Arenas said he was just trying to get Crittenton off the hook.
"I thought by lying and screwing the truth I could protect people I consider family," Arenas said. "I figured I could fix it by taking the fall."
His voice cracking, Arenas disputed claims by prosecutors that he did not take his crime seriously, reiterating the "I'm a goof ball" defense he used with reporters in the days following the incident. He specifically referred to his gunslinging pantomime before a Wizards game at Philadelphia, when he pretended to shoot his laughing teammates during a pregame huddle.
"I like to make people laugh, to make people smile," Arenas said. "For everybody else, I'm taking it lightly. I'm looking at a picture where 14 or 15 guys are laughing together for the last time."
Arenas' arrest arose from a dispute with Crittenton over a card game during a team flight on Dec. 19. It escalated two days later when Arenas brought four guns to the locker room and set them in front of Crittenton's locker with a sign telling him to "PICK 1." Crittenton then took out his own gun.
Arguing for jail time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh said Arenas had made "a mockery of the judicial system" by treating the criminal investigation as a joke. He pointed out that Arenas initially lied when asked why the guns were brought to the locker room, and said any other defendant with a similar criminal record would have received jail time.
Morin listed several factors for not sending Arenas to jail. He noted that Arenas' prior guns-related conviction – a misdemeanor in California in 2003 – was a nonviolent offense. He pointed out that Arenas' guns were obtained lawfully in Virginia, where Arenas lives, and were not loaded when brought them to the locker room. The judge emphasized that Crittenton – who has "not the same celebrity" as Arenas – was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor rather than a felony and received a year of unsupervised probation.
Morin admonished Arenas and Crittenton for committing a "stupid and immature act" and failing to act "like mature adults," but he also cited Arenas' devotion to community service and said he was satisfied that Arenas understood the seriousness of his actions.
"You are genuinely remorseful, and you get it," Morin said.
While the sentence offers some legal closure, Arenas' future with the Wizards remains unclear. The NBA has suspended him for the rest of the season. His misdeed has helped contribute to the precipitous decline of a franchise that is headed for its second consecutive last-place finish after several years of regularly reaching the playoffs.
The Wizards have indicated they would like to have him back, and Arenas has said he would have no problem playing for the team again. Complicating matters is the fact that the team's ownership is in flux following the death of longtime owner Abe Pollin.
The Wizards could attempt to void the last four years of Arenas' six-year, $111 million contract, although the NBA players' union has vowed to fight such a move. Notably, the team did not address Arenas' future in a statement released after the sentencing.
"Gilbert has admitted his mistakes and will now pay his debt to our community," said the statement issued by president Ernie Grunfeld and Pollin's family. "We are confident that he has learned something significant from the experience and we now look forward to moving on and focusing on building this team into the contender that our outstanding fans deserve."