Webber is arrested after stop 9 misdemeanor charges include assault, marijuana possession

Subdued with pepper spray

Wizard pulled over en route to practice

January 21, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

What began as a morning drive to the MCI Center yesterday resulted in the arrest of Washington Wizards forward Chris Webber, who faces nine criminal misdemeanor charges, including possession of marijuana and assault on a Prince George's County police officer, county police reported.

Webber, 24, pushed away an officer when asked to get out of the 1998 Lincoln Navigator he was driving, which resulted in the officer's use of pepper spray, according to police spokesman Royce Holloway.

Instead of attending a 10 a.m. practice at the MCI Center, the 6-foot-10 power forward was taken in handcuffs to the District III courthouse in Seat Pleasant, where he appeared before a district court commissioner. Webber spent most of the day in a holding cell, and left the building at 5: 45 p.m. Webber had no comment as he used a rear entrance to leave.

"He's looking forward to his trial," said Webber's attorney, Bruce Marcus, speaking briefly to reporters at the front of the courthouse while Webber was leaving from the rear.

The Wizards also said little. General manager Wes Unseld issued a statement that read: "We are aware of the charges by the Prince George's County Police Department against Chris Webber after he was stopped for a traffic violation. Until we have had the opportunity to speak with Chris and the authorities involved in the incident, we will have no other comment."

Webber's agent, Fallasha Erwin, said the player called him on by cell phone when he realized, during the course of being pulled over, he had no license or registration with him. "His spirits are pretty good," Erwin said last night. "He's upset about what happened, and the embarrassment it has caused."

Police discovered the remnant of a marijuana cigarette and ashes in the front ashtray and traces of leaves, stems and seeds on the rear floor on the driver's side, police said.

According to police, the sport utility vehicle was pulled over in Landover in the northbound lane of Route 202 (near the northbound exit for Interstate 95) at approximately 9: 28 a.m.

According to the police report, an officer in a marked car tried to pace Webber's vehicle at 60 mph in the 40-mph zone and "the defendant's vehicle quickly accelerated." When stopped at a traffic light, Webber had no driver's license or registration and presented a credit card as identification.

When the officer began to ask questions, the "defendant was slow to answer, and would not talk directly to me," the report said. The officer then issued the traffic citations and notified the driver he would have to step out of the vehicle, so it could be impounded. When the officer tried to open the door after the driver failed to get out, he was struck on his hand, the report said.

"At that time, the officer opened the door to remove him and put him under arrest," said Holloway, the police spokesman. "He resisted, and the assault occurred when the defendant pulled away and pushed the officer's hands. The [pepper] spray was deployed and he was arrested."

"I heard a lot of the stuff that was going on," said Erwin, Webber's agent. "I was talking when they came in and grabbed him and sprayed him. I could tell there was a scuffle. I was shocked. I felt helpless."

Webber was charged with second-degree assault, resisting arrest, possession of a controlled dangerous substance, driving while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, driving while intoxicated, speeding, failure to display a license, driving without a license and driving without a registration.

The assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $2,500 fine, and the possession charge carries a one-year maximum sentence and a $1,000 fine.

Webber, the 1994 Rookie of the Year, was named to the NBA All-Star team for the first time last season and has a chance to duplicate that this season. He leads the Wizards in scoring (22.0 per game) and rebounding (9.1).

Webber's arrest marks the third time in two years a member of the team has been arrested.

Point guard Rod Strickland was arrested in Washington on Sept. 4 and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and disorderly conduct. He has a court date next month.

In November 1996, forward Juwan Howard was arrested in Washington and charged with driving while intoxicated. Those charges were later dropped after Howard agreed to enter an alcohol rehabilitation program.

Whether the league or the team steps in to discipline Webber is unclear: Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, testing and punishment for marijuana is excluded.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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