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New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton has reportedly reached an agreement with prosecutors that will allow him to avoid jail time stemming from his February arrest on felony gun charges.
Felton, who turns 30 on Thursday, agreed to terms on Monday morning, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York:
As part of the agreement, Felton will have to plead guilty to at least one of those felony gun charges — criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree or criminal possession of a firearm — complete 500 hours of community service, pay a $5,000 fine, register as a gun offender and waive his right as a defendant to appeal the case.
Felton, who wore a black suit and sported rimmed glasses, did not speak at his hearing on Monday in Manhattan Criminal Court. He would not take questions from reporters, but did issue a statement aloud outside the court room.
"I just want to say that I want to thank the DA for being fair to me in this whole situation," Felton said. "I want to thank all my friends, my family especially, my fans, everybody just for supporting me and understanding the person I am."
Felton turned himself into police early on Feb. 25, hours after an at-the-buzzer Knicks loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Police said that a lawyer for Ariane Raymondo-Felton — 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.
He 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. The plea Felton is expected to enter at a June 30 hearing will allow him to avoid that.
His lawyer, Jim Walden, said the plea would allow Felton to "continue his career without interruption," according to Jennifer Peltz of The Associated Press. Felton could still receive punishment from the NBA, however.
An NBA spokesman said at the time of Felton's arrest that the league was monitoring the case, and the league has in the past determined punishment following the conclusion of legal proceedings. (Case in point: the league waiting until Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd had pleaded guilty to driving while impaired, more than a year after his initial arrest while a member of the Knicks, before suspending him for two games.) The New York Times reported back in February that under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union, "a player convicted of a violent felony, or who pleads guilty to one, will be subject to no less than a 10-game suspension, as well as league-mandated counseling sessions. A violent felony, in this instance, is defined as the use or threat to use a deadly weapon."
Besides the question of if, and to what degree, Felton is punished by the league, the next issue facing the point guard is where exactly his career will continue. He is coming off perhaps the worst season 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 followed up a 2012-13 Atlantic Division title by going 37-45 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
New Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson has denied reports that he told Felton he plans to trade him this offseason. Even if Jackson did have such plans, he might be hard-pressed to find a taker for the two years and just under $7.75 million remaining on the four-year contract Felton signed with the Knicks in the summer of 2012.
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