Blazer to enter drug rehab
- Don Hamilton And Jim Redden
- Portland Tribune - News
Sources: Stoudamire will enter a program voluntarily
Damon Stoudamire plans to enter the National Basketball Association's marijuana rehabilitation program voluntarily in the wake of his third arrest in 17 months, says a source close to the Portland Trail Blazer guard.
The decision, reached after his July 3 arrest in Tucson, Ariz., for marijuana possession may come a few steps ahead of a mandatory order to enter the program. Stoudamire hasn't yet entered a plea in the Arizona case.
Prosecutors in Lewis County, Wash., had agreed to hold off on marijuana possession charges from a Nov. 22, 2002, traffic stop pending a year of good behavior. But the latest arrest means that the charges may be reinstated and a conviction in Lewis County would require him under the National Basketball Players Association contract to enter the league's rehab program.
On Monday, the Trail Blazers said they planned to fine Stoudamire $250,000 and suspend him indefinitely. But Dan Wasserman, the union's communications director, said the penalties are beyond what's permitted under the collective bargaining agreement.
'We have very specific penalties and remedies in regard to marijuana offenses,' Wasserman said, 'and they don't even come close to an indefinite suspension or a $250,000 fine. The intended action is way out of bounds.'
The Blazer star has so far avoided the NBA's rehabilitation program because he hasn't been convicted of anything, nor has he tested positive for marijuana. But his decision to enter rehab on his own indicates he sees some form of penalty as inevitable considering his latest brush with the law and the resulting condemnation from team President Steve Patterson, who's trying to come down hard on the team's bad-boy image.
Patterson, Stoudamire and Stoudamire's attorney, Stephen Houze, did not return repeated calls for comment.
Rehab program hazy
But what does the NBA's marijuana rehabilitation involve? A 30-day in-patient program? An hourlong video? The NBA won't provide any details 'nothing,' said league spokeswoman Teri Washington.
The 1999 union contract offers few specifics. It leaves treatment decisions up to a medical director, who is chosen by the league and the union to 'select and supervise program counselors and evaluate and treat' players.
Other than allowing for testing of players and inspection of medical records, the contract provides no guidelines for what a marijuana rehabilitation program would entail.
According to the contract, players must enter the league's marijuana rehab program upon testing positive for marijuana or upon conviction or a no contest plea to a marijuana offense.
A second such violation brings a $15,000 fine and re-entry into the league rehab program, while the third and all subsequent violations mean a five-game suspension and entry once again into the rehab program.
Stiffer penalties, including dismissal from the league, come with conviction for crimes involving amphetamines, cocaine and opiates.
Problems with evidence
In the most recent incident, police said they arrested Stoudamire on July 3 as he went through a Tucson airport security checkpoint with nearly 1 1/2 ounces of marijuana.
In February 2002, Stoudamire was arrested after police responding to a burglar alarm said they found about a pound of marijuana in his Lake Oswego home. He pleaded not guilty. A judge later ruled that the search was unconstitutional without a warrant, although the Clackamas County district attorney's office is appealing the decision.
On Nov. 22, 2002, Washington State Patrol officers said they found loose marijuana, a roach and a small container with marijuana in a sport utility vehicle carrying Stoudamire, Blazer forward Rasheed Wallace and their friend Edward Smith home from a game in Seattle.
Lewis County prosecutors agreed to defer charges against Stoudamire because of evidence problems, prosecuting attorney Jeremy Randolph said.
He said police had put all of the evidence in a single bag, making it impossible to say for sure which piece of evidence belonged to which occupant. In addition, Randolph said, the only fingerprints on the container belonged to the state troopers.
An agreement reached in March said the deal would be revoked for any defendant convicted of any crime anywhere within a year.
Prosecutors must wait
The NBA's security office followed the case closely. The league's Washington state representative attended the March 20 court hearing that discussed the agreement. Bernie Tolbert, the league's vice president for security, had court records faxed to him.
An arrest itself is not enough to prompt revocation of the agreement, said Andrew Toynbee, assistant Lewis County prosecutor.
'The question,' Toynbee said, 'is whether we can prove in court that a person violated the criminal law.'
That can mean a certified copy of a conviction or testimony from witnesses. Lewis County officials haven't decided if they want to pay for witnesses to fly from Tucson to Chehalis for a hearing.
'Cases such as these often take awhile to resolve,' Toynbee said. 'So it may be a matter of months before we get a record of conviction, which would allow us to proceed in the most prudent and sure-fire manner.'