WASHINGTON – Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas was charged Thursday with felony gun possession in connection with a Dec. 21 locker room confrontation with a teammate.
Prosecutors charged Arenas with one count of carrying a pistol without a license, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The charges were filed in D.C. Superior Court in an "information," a document that generally signals a plea deal.
Arenas is scheduled to appear Friday afternoon before a judge. Arenas' lawyer had no immediate comment. The NBA declined to comment.
The Wizards said in a statement that they were aware of the charge and were carefully following the legal process.
"We will also continue to cooperate fully with the proper authorities and the NBA," the team said.
Arenas, who has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA pending the investigation, has said he kept multiple guns in his locker at the Verizon Center. The 28-year-old three-time All-Star said he wanted to keep them away from his children and didn't know it was illegal.
He says he took them out of the locker Dec. 21 in a "misguided effort to play a joke" on a teammate.
League officials have said the locker-room incident stemmed from a card-game dispute between Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton on a plane trip back from the West Coast two days earlier.
At least seven Wizards players and coach Flip Saunders have appeared before a grand jury or been questioned by authorities.
There are multiple conflicting reports about what happened in the locker room. It's unclear what role Crittenton played in the incident and whether he had a gun. He has kept a low profile and has said he did nothing wrong.
Earlier Thursday, police searched for a gun at Crittenton's Arlington, Va., apartment but did not seize any evidence, according to court documents. Police were specifically looking for a silver or chrome-colored semiautomatic handgun with a black handle. A search warrant indicated police are investigating crimes including brandishing a weapon and violating the District of Columbia's gun laws.
Crittenton's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Crittenton was there during the search, which occurred shortly after 7 a.m.
"It went as smooth as it could have gone," Bartelstein said.
Crittenton has been excused by the team from practices and games while authorities investigate.
After the investigation became public, Arenas repeatedly joked about it on Twitter. Last week, he was photographed pointing his index fingers at teammates as if he were firing a pair of guns during an on-court huddle before a game at Philadelphia.
The outcome of the legal process will have profound implications for Arenas' future in the NBA and with the Wizards specifically. Possession of a gun at an NBA arena is a violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement. Commissioner David Stern was particularly upset that Arenas joked about the matter and said that Arenas' conduct will "ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse."
The Wizards could also attempt to invoke the morals clause found in standard NBA contracts and void the remainder of the six-year, $111 million deal Arenas signed in the summer of 2008. Arenas has played in only 34 games since signing the contract because of a knee injury and the guns-related suspension. He was averaging 22.6 points and 7.2 assists this season for the Wizards, who are 12-25 and in last place in the NBA's Southeast Division.