Baxter gets 60 days on charges

Ex-Terps center is sentenced in D.C. on gun plea

August 24, 2006|By Paul McMullen and Ray Frager | Paul McMullen and Ray Frager,Sun Reporters

WASHINGTON -- Lonny Baxter had planned to be in Italy right now, working out with his new pro basketball team in preparation for the European season. Instead, the former University of Maryland center will be spending two months in a District of Columbia jail.

In a plea agreement yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, Baxter was sentenced to 60 days on gun-related charges.

Baxter pleaded guilty to a felony charge of carrying a weapon without a license and misdemeanor charges of possession of an unregistered firearm and ammunition. Associate Judge Craig Iscoe sentenced Baxter to 270 days, with all but 60 suspended.

Baxter also must pay a $2,500 fine and put in 200 hours of community service. He will be on probation for 18 months and must avoid arrests and possession of weapons to keep from serving time on the felony.

Baxter likely would be free now if he weren't considered a repeat offender. In 2004, after Baxter's shotgun accidentally went off in his apartment in the District, he received nine months' probation for having an unregistered firearm.

"You've already gotten benefit of probation and not taken care of things," Iscoe said in court. "If there had been no prior probation, I would not be giving this sentence."

Baxter, 27, of Rockville, and a passenger in his car were arrested early Aug. 16 near the White House after police were told of shots fired in the area. Baxter admitted yesterday that he had fired a gun - a .40-caliber Glock pistol registered to him in Texas but not in D.C. - into the air from his sport utility vehicle.

Charges were dropped against Baxter's passenger, Francis I. Martin, 35, of Temple Hills.

Baxter appeared in court - located two blocks from the Verizon Center, where he played for the Washington Wizards - wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs.

"I'd like to first apologize to the court, the District of Columbia and also to my family for my carelessness," Baxter said. "It was a selfish, stupid act I committed. I can assure everyone that nothing like this will ever happen again."

The incident occurred the night before Baxter was to fly to Italy.

Baxter's attorney, Richard Finci, said: "He was feeling some fear and excitement about the unknown. ... [Baxter said:] `And with all those emotions, I can't explain poor judgment.'

"There was no intent to harm. The effect of his emotions being out of control may not be satisfactory to the court, but it's what happened."

Terps coach Gary Williams spoke on Baxter's behalf during the 45-minute hearing.

"I've known Lonny for nine years," Williams said, "first as a recruitable student-athlete, he played for me for four years and the last four years as my friend. He's a hard-working individual who gradually became a great player, one who is looked up to.

"He was always around when younger players needed him. He understands the importance of education. Lonny backed that up by returning to school this summer and should graduate this year. The future for Lonny Baxter can be positive."

While leaving the courthouse, Williams said: "Lonny is a member of our basketball family, and we will stand behind him."

Baxter's attorney also read a statement from former Maryland teammate Juan Dixon, which said in part: "Lonny is a man of good character and would do nothing to harm anyone."

Baxter, a 6-foot-8 center on Maryland's 2001-02 national championship team, has played for six NBA teams in four seasons. His status with Montepaschi Siena appears in doubt.

Before yesterday's sentencing, Siena general manager Ferdinando Minucci told the Associated Press: "If [Baxter] arrives soon, there won't be any problems. But if he can't come for a month or two, we can't wait that long. The season starts in October."

Counting time he already has served, Baxter isn't scheduled to get out of jail for an additional 52 days, on Oct. 14.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com ray.frager@baltsun.com

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