Baxter sentenced to 60 days in prison

Ex-Terp had pleaded guilty to gun charge

Basketball

September 01, 2007|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun Reporter

Greenbelt -- Lonny Baxter, a standout on Maryland's 2002 NCAA basketball championship team, was sentenced yesterday to 60 days in prison on a federal gun charge. His attorney acknowledged that Baxter had "an unhealthy interest in firearms," but argued that the offense warranted only probation.

U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte also gave Baxter two years of supervised release after his prison time. The judge said he would allow the 6-foot-8 forward to play overseas during those years.

Baxter has a one-year deal with a team in Spain, DKV Joventut Badalona, that includes a furnished apartment and a car, according to court papers.

Richard A. Finci, Baxter's attorney, said his client may lose his contract because his confinement may overlap with the opening of the season in October.

Baxter was given 30 days to report to prison. Finci said he did not know yet where the time would be served.

"The 60 days costs him a lot," Finci said. The attorney said Baxter was immediately forthcoming with prosecutors.

Baxter starred on Terrapins teams that went to the Final Four in 2001 and won the championship the next season. He scored 15 points and had 14 rebounds in the title game against Indiana. He played four NBA seasons.

Baxter arrived at the courthouse in a gray suit and pinstriped shirt. He appeared downcast, smiling only when the names of NBA players and former Terps teammates Steve Blake and Juan Dixon were mentioned in an interview after sentencing.

Messitte said he treated Baxter no differently than any other defendant. "You're certainly not being singled out because you're an athlete," the judge said.

"Let's hope this is the end of it, Mr. Baxter," Messitte said. "Good luck."

Baxter pleaded guilty July 19 to delivering undeclared firearms.

He was accused of twice mailing guns in 2006 from Houston - where he was playing briefly for the Rockets - to Maryland without declaring the contents of the Federal Express packages.

Baxter allegedly used middlemen - "straw people," the judge called them - to buy the guns. At Baxter's request, a friend completed a form as the listed purchaser of a Beretta 9 mm pistol and Mossberg 12- gauge shotgun, prosecutors said. They said another friend was the listed purchaser of two Glock pistols, a Para Ordnance pistol and a Bushmaster rifle, all paid for by Baxter.

"This is not a case where I think straight probation is called for," Messitte told Baxter yesterday. "You are in a sense on injured reserve between now and the time you come back to work."

In August 2006, Baxter was arrested in Washington with one of the illegally mailed Glocks after firing it in the air. He served 60 days in jail on an unlawful possession charge and was released last October.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart A. Berman said yesterday that Baxter had a "fascination" with guns.

"It's more of an unhealthy obsession than the use of firearms in furtherance of other criminal conduct," Berman told the judge.

Finci acknowledged Baxter's "unhealthy interest" in guns. The attorney said Baxter "said they were a lot cheaper in Texas" than other places.

Baxter said after sentencing that his interest in guns was finished. "It has to be at this point," he said.

As a result of his plea, he won't be permitted to possess a gun.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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