Gilbert Arenas charged with gun possession

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By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas was charged on Thursday with felony gun possession for an incident last month in which he took a pistol into the NBA team's dressing room.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Arenas was previously suspended indefinitely by the NBA.

The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the charge was part of a deal between prosecutors and defense attorneys in which the basketball star will plead guilty in return for a lesser sentence. Ken Wainstein, an attorney representing Arenas, also declined to comment.

But the charge was filed in Superior Court in the District of Columbia in a document called an "information" -- which is typically used only in cases when a plea deal has been reached.

Citing several sources close to the case who were not identified, The Washington Post said Arenas had reached a plea agreement that could spare him jail time.

Arenas is due to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Friday at 2:30 p.m. (1930 GMT), officials said.

Arenas, 28, was charged with carrying a pistol without a license in violation of Washington, D.C., law.

"On or about December 21, 2009, within the District of Columbia, Gilbert J. Arenas did carry, openly and concealed on or about his person ... a pistol without a license," according to the one-paragraph court document.

The team said it was aware of the charge filed against Arenas and that it "will continue to follow the ongoing legal process very carefully."

"We will also continue to cooperate fully with the proper authorities and the NBA. Beyond our previous statements on this serious and unfortunate matter, will have no further comment at this time," the Wizards said in a statement.

The three-time All Star met with federal prosecutors earlier this month to explain why he took guns into the locker room. Arenas insisted in a statement last week it was a "misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate."

Arenas has said he believed it was legal to store the guns in the District of Columbia and that they were unloaded when he took them out of his Verizon Center locker on December 21.

One of the league's top shooters, Arenas was suspended by the NBA on January 6, the day after a game at Philadelphia in which he appeared to make a gun sign with his fingers during the warm-up and commented on the incident on Twitter.

Arenas signed a six-year, $111 million contract with the Wizards in 2008. He was averaging 22.6 points and 7.2 assists in 32 games this season before his suspension.

(Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Peter Cooney)