Charges could lead to up to 10 years in prisonPosted: Monday September 09, 2002 3:14 PM
Updated: Tuesday September 10, 2002 10:12 PM
DETROIT (AP) -- Chris Webber was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury about his dealings with a University of Michigan booster who admits lending the NBA star $280,000 while he was still an amateur.
Webber, who led Michigan's "Fab Five" team to two NCAA title games, is in the second year of a $123 million, seven-year contract with the Sacramento Kings.
He was charged Monday with obstruction of justice and making a false declaration before a grand jury, according to the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit.
Webber planned to read a statement Tuesday afternoon outside the Kings' practice facility at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
"I didn't lie," Webber told USA Today in a story published Tuesday. "The truth always comes out. What this case is about is a 70-year-old man dressed in hip-hop clothes who befriended kids and said he loved kids, and I believed him.
"I didn't know he saw my potential before I saw it. Threats were made. Those threats have come to reality. I believe this is extortion. After the trial, and I am vindicated, this case will be bigger than me lying to the grand jury, which I did not do."
Former booster Ed Martin pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to launder money, admitting he took gambling money, combined it with other funds and lent it to several players while they were still amateurs.
Webber told the Sacramento Bee he had not spoken to Martin in more than 10 years.
"Why would I go into court like it's being said and lie to help a man who has been threatening me?" Webber told the Bee in a story published Tuesday. "I went to court to help the prosecution."
According to the Bee, Webber said he was speaking against the advice of his attorney, and he planned to hold a news conference Tuesday in Sacramento, although no time was announced.
Martin, 68, said his payments included $280,000 to Webber; $160,000 to Robert Traylor, now with the New Orleans Hornets; $105,000 to Maurice Taylor, now with the Houston Rockets; and $71,000 to Louis Bullock, who has been playing professionally in Europe.
The 29-year-old Webber publicly denied taking significant amounts of money from Martin.
The maximum penalty on each charge is five years and a fine of $250,000. There was no immediate comment from Webber. He has no listed telephone number in the Sacramento area.
Payments to college players violate NCAA rules. The indictment said Webber, his father and aunt gave false information to the university in its internal investigation and the school forwarded it to the NCAA.
Prosecutors, NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro, Kings spokesman Darren May and Michigan athletic director Bill Martin declined comment.
The indictment says Webber, his father and his aunt conspired to conceal the cash, checks, clothing, jewelry and other benefits provided to the player and his family by Martin from 1988 to 1993.
Webber's father, Mayce Webber Jr., and his aunt, Charlene Johnson, were indicted on the same charges as Webber. Neither immediately returned messages.
Webber told the Bee he was angered by the indictment of his father and aunt.
"[Martin] knew the best way to hurt me was to hurt my family," Webber told the newspaper.
Traylor and Bullock admitted to the grand jury they received the loans, said their attorney, Steve Fishman.
Webber, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward and four-time All-Star, has averaged 22.1 points and 10.2 rebounds during his nine-year career. He was the first pick in the 1993 draft and was rookie of the year with Golden State.
He starred at Washington before being traded to the Kings. Webber led Sacramento to the Western Conference finals, where the Kings lost in seven games to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.