New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton was arraigned in New York Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon following his early-morning arrest on multiple felony gun charges. We ran through the particulars of the arrest on Tuesday morning, but the arraignment resulted in some news about the 29-year-old point guard's future, both on-court and in-court. Here, quickly, are the updates worth knowing:
1. He was arraigned on two counts, not three.
At the time of his arrest, Felton was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second, third and fourth-degrees. After facing Judge Diana Boyar during his Tuesday arraignment, though, he officially stands charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree and criminal possession of a firearm. The former is categorized as a Class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison, while the latter is a Class E felony that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
The charges stem from a semiautomatic handgun, a Belgian-made FN Herstal, that allegedly belonged to Felton and was left at the home of his estranged wife, Ariane Raymondo-Felton, who reportedly filed for divorce last week. The third-degree felony charge relates to the weapon having an illegal 20-round extended magazine, which was loaded with 18 rounds of live ammunition, according to the New York Daily News; the lesser felony charge comes from the gun, which Felton allegedly purchased in South Carolina, brought to New York in August and kept under the bed in the Feltons' Upper West side apartment, being unregistered in New York.
2. Felton will not face the most serious charge from the arrest.
Prosecutors declined to charge Felton with second-degree criminal possession of a firearm in the arraignment, which "might have helped save his career," according to USA TODAY's Brent Schrotenboer.
In New York, the second-degree charge carries with it not only a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, but also a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 3 1/2 years if convicted. The Manhattan district attorney's office offered no comment Tuesday on why the specific charges filed were chosen; Associated Press reporters Jennifer Peltz and Jake Pearson noted that "it's not uncommon for charges to change between arrest and arraignment," while Schrotenboer wrote that "generally, when prosecutors decline to file certain charges, it's because they don't believe the evidence supports them according to the law."
The two felony counts Felton now faces "each carry a minimum of one year behind bars, but a judge has discretion to impose a lesser sentence," according to Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann, who writes that Felton "may be able to avoid jail time, especially if his attorneys can work out a plea deal." That's true even if Felton is convicted of both charges, because he has no prior felony offenses, according to Scott Cacciola and J. David Goodman of The New York Times.
3. Felton is out of custody and expected to return to the Knicks on Wednesday.
Felton was released on $25,000 bail and, "under the terms of his bond, [he] can travel to games," bail bondsman Ira Judelson told the AP. Judge Boyer issued a temporary order of protection prohibiting Felton from having contact with his estranged wife for the next six months, and it'll reportedly be up to Canadian immigration authorities to determine whether to allow Felton into Canada for an April 11 road game against the Toronto Raptors, but that's about the extent of his restrictions at the moment.
He's "expected to practice Wednesday and then play for the Knicks in Miami Thursday," when they take on the two-time-defending NBA champion Miami Heat in what ought to be a fairly interesting nationally televised affair, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. He'll likely play significant minutes, too.
After reaching buyout agreements with Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace, some expected New York to look at adding another point guard to the roster. The team is instead reportedly close to agreements with forward Earl Clark and shooting guard Shannon Brown, though, leaving an opening for Felton to return to starter's minutes as if he'd never left. (Knicks coach Mike Woodson could cede some of that time to little-used Toure' Murry, but that seems unlikely, considering Woodson has turned to the defensive-minded rookie for just 36 1/2 total minutes of burn over the past month, most of it coming in garbage-time situations.)
4. The Knicks probably couldn't void Felton's contract, even if they wanted to.
As for the Knicks, while they may have hoped to terminate Felton's contract under the good citizenship clause of the Uniform Player Contact, NBA teams have repeatedly been denied the ability to void contracts. This was true for Latrell Sprewell, Vin Baker and Arenas. The fact that Felton's charges are less serious than originally anticipated would only make it harder for the Knicks to escape paying Felton $3.7 million next season and, if Felton exercises a player option, $4.0 million in 2015-16.
From the Times:
The collective bargaining agreement allows for the termination of a contract only “if the egregious nature of the act or conduct is so lacking in justification” that it warrants that type of penalty. The language allows some latitude, but it is a high threshold. Contracts are nearly impossible to void, unless the player winds up in prison and cannot fulfill his contractual obligations.
If the Knicks made a move to suspend Felton — and there’s absolutely no indication they are thinking along those lines — acting union director Ron Klempner would be all over it. The union is steadfast in its position that “charges are charges’’ and no contract has been violated until a plea or conviction is reached.
5. This is probably all that will happen in the case for right now.
Felton isn't due back in court until June 2. The Knicks have had no comment on Felton's arrest or arraignment and, given their evident expectation that he return to the lineup immediately, don't seem likely to take any action at the moment.
The NBA also hasn't taken any action against the point guard, and is unlikely to do so any time soon. NBA spokesman said Tuesday that the league is monitoring the case, but in the absence of anything tying Felton and firearms to an NBA facility or league-related event/trip/whatever, it's most likely that the league will allow the legal process to play out before determining whether or not to punish Felton. (Case in point: the league waiting until Jason Kidd had pleaded guilty to driving while impaired, more than a year after his initial arrest, before suspending him for two games.)
More from The Times:
According to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the N.B.A., 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.
The league also reserves the right to pursue its own investigation, though it tends to wait for court proceedings to play out before taking disciplinary action. In these situations, a player cannot be punished twice for the same transgression, so the league typically metes out punishment instead of the team.
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