DETRIOT- On the eve of his federal perjury trial, Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge of criminal contempt in a deal that is expected to allow him to avoid prison time.
Webber had been charged with lying to a grand jury about money authorities say he received from former Michigan basketball booster Ed Martin. He could have faced up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
In the agreement with prosecutors, Webber will face a fine. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds will decide whether the criminal contempt charge is a felony or a misdemeanor. Sentencing was set for Sept. 16.
A perjury charge against the player's father, Mayce Webber Jr., is expected to be dropped, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino said.
Jury selection in Chris Webber's trial had been scheduled to begin Tuesday. He left the courtroom Monday without talking to reporters.
Martin, who died Feb. 14 at age 69, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to launder money. He admitted he took gambling money, combined it with other funds and lent it to several players while they were in school.
The retired autoworker said he lent $616,000 to Webber and three other Wolverines players -- Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock -- while they were amateurs. Martin said he gave Webber and his family $280,000 from 1988-93, a period extending from his freshman year in high school through his sophomore season at Michigan.
Webber, who is in the second year of a 7-year, $123-million contract with the Kings, in 2000 told the grand jury investigating Martin's dealings that he took money from Martin in high school, but could not remember if he took money in college.