Dallas Mavericks point guard Raymond Felton has been suspended four games without pay for pleading guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm, the NBA announced Thursday. His suspension will begin with the first game of the 2014-15 regular season this October.
Felton, 30, reached an agreement with prosecutors on a guilty plea back in June — just days before the New York Knicks traded Felton and Tyson Chandler to Dallas for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and a pair of second-round picks — that allowed him to avoid jail time after his February arrest on felony gun charges.
"Today we were made aware of Raymond Felton's suspension," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in a team statement. "We also learned that Raymond will be permitted to complete his community service outside the state of New York. The Mavericks are working with Raymond and the court to develop a community service program that will have a positive and lasting impact on North Texas."
In his own statement, Felton said he "demonstrated poor judgment" and that he takes "full responsibility for my actions."
"Moving forward, I'm eager to get to Dallas, to start fresh and make a positive impact in the Dallas metropolitan area," he said.
Felton turned himself into police early on Feb. 25, hours after an at-the-buzzer Knicks loss to, oddly enough, the Mavericks. Police said that a lawyer for Ariane Raymondo-Felton then the guard's wife, who had filed for divorce one week earlier — brought to a police precinct a Belgian-made FN Herstal semiautomatic handgun, had an illegal 20-round extended magazine and was loaded with 18 rounds of live ammunition. Raymondo-Felton's lawyer said the gun was the point guard's, and that she did not want it in their house anymore. (Felton and Raymondo-Felton have since completed their divorce.)
Felton was arraigned on the third-degree felony charge for the illegal magazine, and the lesser firearm charge for the gun itself, which he allegedly bought in South Carolina, brought to New York and kept under the bed in the Feltons' Upper West side apartment, but did not register in New York. The third-degree charge carried a maximum sentence of up to seven years in prison, but Felton's guilty plea at a July hearing allowed him to avoid that. From the Associated Press:
Felton pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm. He admitted he knowingly had a large-capacity ammunition magazine and a semi-automatic pistol without a license.
"Are those charges true?" Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Larry Stephen asked.
"Yes, sir," Felton said, later adding in a soft voice: "I apologize. I realize what I did was wrong."
He was immediately sentenced to 500 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Rebold said Felton will be allowed to do the service outside New York.
If he complies, the case will be closed without jail time or probation.
As it stands, Felton will have to wait four games to try to wipe the bad taste of last season out of his mouth. He's coming off perhaps the worst outing of his nine-year NBA career, a campaign in which he shot less than 40 percent from the floor and 32 percent from 3-point land while averaging a career-low 9.7 points per game and struggling mightily on the defensive end for a Knicks team that went 37-45 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010. He'll be battling fellow veterans Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris, as well as second-year man Gal Mekel, for minutes at the point, and starting the regular season by spending four games on the pine probably won't help matters there. Then again, Cuban appears to believe he's got something in Felton, a player he believes can rehabilitate his career under ace head coach Rick Carlisle.
"When guys come in and they realize we're about winning and success, for the most part they buy in," Cuban told radio station KTCK-AM after the Chandler/Felton trade, according to the Dallas Morning News. "We've been able to take guys who were huge problems ... like [Jason Terry]; they couldn't get him out of Atlanta fast enough. And all of a sudden he went from somebody else's problem to one of our heroes. We've got a history of being able to take what I call 'fallen angels' and give 'em some love, give 'em some care and have them turn around their careers."
(By the way, Felton's punishment for pleading guilty to gun charges: four games. The going rate for getting popped smoking pot three times: five games. Please update your files.)
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