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Webber gets volunteer work, for now

DETROIT -- A federal judge on Tuesday deferred for about two
years the sentencing of Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber, who
admitted lying to a grand jury about his dealings with a former
University of Michigan basketball booster.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds instead ordered a provision to
Webber's bond that requires him to volunteer at a six-week summer
literacy program at Butzel Middle School in Detroit in the summers
of 2004 and 2005. Webber must work at least 150 hours each summer.

Edmunds deferred sentencing until August or September of 2005.

In July, Webber pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of criminal
contempt a day before jury selection was to begin in his perjury
trial.

Webber and his father, Mayce Webber Jr., were accused of lying
about money authorities say the player received from ex-booster Ed
Martin. The maximum penalty would have been five years in prison
and a $250,000 fine.

"I believe that Mr. Webber understands the seriousness of his
offense, that he is remorseful," Edmunds said at a brief hearing.
But she said she was undecided whether to treat Webber's criminal
contempt plea as a felony or misdemeanor.

"I don't call this punishment," Webber's attorney, Steve
Fishman, said after the hearing. "Chris is looking forward to
participating."

Outside the federal courthouse, Webber apologized to his fans,
thanked the judge and thanked the people of Detroit and Sacramento
for their support. He said he maintains strong emotional ties to
the University of Michigan despite the payment scandal.

"My heart bleeds maize and blue," he said. "They were the
happiest days of my life."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino said the judge's
decision was unprecedented but declined comment on it.

A day after Webber's plea, the charges against his father were
dropped for "weak or inadmissible sufficient evidence," according
to a court order.

In his plea, Webber admitted lying to the grand jury on Aug. 2,
2000, in saying he did not recall giving money to Martin, who died
earlier this year. Webber now acknowledges that in 1994 he gave
Martin about $38,000 in cash as partial repayment for expenditures
Martin made on his behalf.

Martin, who died in February at age 69, pleaded guilty in 2002
to conspiracy to launder money and told federal prosecutors he took
gambling money, combined it with other funds and lent $616,000 to
Webber and three other Michigan players.

In November, Michigan imposed sanctions on itself, including a
one-year postseason ban, and forfeited 112 regular-season and
tournament victories from five seasons, including its victory in
the 1992 NCAA semifinal.

In May, the NCAA infractions committee banned Michigan from
another year of postseason play, reduced the number of scholarships
the school is allowed to have and placed the program on probation.