Friday, September 2, 2005

Chris Webber Pays $100,000 Fine

Former University of Michigan and NBA basketball star Chris Webber completed the punishment for his criminal contempt by paying a $100,000 fine, in addition to the 300 hours of community service he did over the past two summers.  Webber was indicted in 2002 on perjury charges for lying to a grand jury about receiving funds from a Michigan booster who was later charged with money laundering.  The booster died shortly before Webber's trial, and in July 2003 he entered a guilty plea to criminal contempt, with the perjury charge being dropped.  U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds initially reserved imposing a final sentence, and ordered Webber to complete the community service and return two years later.  Judge Edmunds then determined that Webber's contempt would be a misdemeanor, and imposed the maximum fine allowable for such a violation.  According to a report in the Detroit News (here), Webber left the courtroom and went upstairs to the clerk's office, where he wrote a $100,000 check.  Webber is in the midst of a seven-year contract that pays him a bit more than $20 million per year, so the fine probably did not have a serious effect on his cash flow.

One interesting aspect of the sentencing was Judge Edmunds' rejection of a request by the University for restitution of its attorney's fees related to the NCAA and grand jury investigations of its basketball program and the costs of Webber's scholarship.  The school forfeited all the victories during the Fab Five era and returned money it received from its two Final Four appearances because Webber was ineligible for receiving money from the booster; even worse, the banners from those appearances have been removed from the team's arena.  The judge stated that the University would have to pursue a civil case against Webber because the restitution provisions do not provide for such payments based on the crime of conviction.  It's unlikely that Michigan will want to reopen the wounds from that era, although Webber may share a bit of his NBA boodle with the school to make up for its costs. (ph)

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