It's the human and fun side of our sports heroes

Ex-NBA forward Washington gets six-year prison sentence


By Agence France-Presse

Former NBA forward Kermit Washington, best known for a 1977 punch in an on-court fight that nearly killed rival Rudy Tomjanovich, was sentenced Monday to six years in federal prison.

Washington, 66, was sentenced in Kansas City by US District Judge Greg Kays on charges related to an extensive charity fraud scheme and ordered to pay $967,158 in restitution.

“This former NBA player abused his fame and status to promote a charity scam by which he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars that he diverted to personal spending on lavish vacations, shopping sprees, and even plastic surgery for his girlfriend,” said US Attorney Timothy Garrison.

“Although he told his donors that 100 percent of all donations would go to support charitable work in Africa, including a medical clinic for needy families and HIV-positive children, in fact he spent most of the donated funds on himself. His fraud scheme also victimized law-abiding taxpayers by stealing from the public treasury rather than paying taxes owed.”

Washington pleaded guilty last November to two counts of filing a false tax return and one count of aggravated identity theft.

In 507 games over 10 NBA seasons, Washington averaged 9.2 points and 8.3 rebounds a game for the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Diego Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers from 1973-1982 plus six games in a 1987 comeback bid for the Golden State Warriors.

But his most famous on-court moment came in December 1977 when a scuffle broke out between Washington’s Lakers and the Houston Rockets.

Kareem-Abdul Jabbar pulled Houston’s Kevin Kunnert away by the arms but Washington landed a punch that dropped the Rocket to one knee.

Tomjanovich ran to the incident to break up the fight but instead was smashed by a roundhouse blow from Washington that fractured Tomjanovich’s face only 8mm from his skull, leaving him unconscious in a pool of blood on the middle of the court.

The bone structure of his face was detatched from his skull. He suffered a broken jaw, broken nose and cerebral concussion. Blood and spinal fluid leaked into his skull.

Washington was fined $10,000 and suspended for 60 days, missing 26 games — at the time the NBA’s longest ban for an on-court violation.

Tomjanovich’s playing career was ended but he twice won NBA crowns as coach of the Rockets.

Washington was among 11 defendants convicted from a probe into a large software piracy scheme by the US Justice Department.

Washington’s charity, The Sixth Man Foundation, did business as Project Contact Africa, operated an eBay store and used a PayPal account to facilitate payments. Approximately $12 million in items, including unauthorized, illicit, and counterfeit software and software components were sold on the Project Contact Africa eBay store.

Washington admitted diverting funds from the charity’s bank account to pay himself for personal spending, such as rent, credit card payments, vacation trips and plastic surgery for his then-girlfriend. Washington claimed to pay the rent and school fees for a family in Africa when payments were to a former prostitute, and rose and fell depending on their level of sexual intimacy.