Martin sentencing delayed

The scandal surrounding the Michigan basketball program and former booster Ed Martin was dealt yet another delay late last week. Martin, who pleaded guilty in May to the charge of conspiracy to launder money, was expected to be sentenced Oct. 8, but court documents revealed that his day in court will be delayed until Feb. 20.

The maximum penalty for the charge is 20 years in prison and/or a $500,000 fine, but under Martin's plea agreement, the prison time could be reduced or eliminated, and the fine cut to $6,000.

The delay should ensure that Martin's sentencing occurs after the trial of former Michigan basketball star Chris Webber, who is facing federal charges in Detroit for lying to a grand jury and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Webber's father, Mayce Webber Jr., and his aunt, Charlene Johnson, were indicted on the same charges. Each pled not guilty, and their trial is not expected until next year.

Martin testified in May that he took money from an illegal gambling ring that he ran in Detroit auto plants, combined it with other funds and loaned money to four former Michigan basketball players, including $280,000 to Webber during his high school and college playing days.

Because the alleged loans took place while Webber and his teammates were amateurs, the Michigan basketball program could face disciplinary action from the NCAA.

"We are cooperating fully with the investigation," Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said.

Webber has repeatedly denied his guilt in the charges against him, and he still maintains his innocence.

"I will fight this case to the end, and I feel that I will be vindicated," Webber said at a press conference Sept. 10.

He has not commented publicly since that time.

The sentencing delay could strengthen the case against Webber. The prosecution would still hold sway over Martin when he testifies in the Webber case.

"It's clear that Martin will not be sentenced until after the Webber trial, and the reason for that is the government wants as much leverage on him as possible to make Martin testify the way the government wants him to testify," Don Heller, a Sacramento defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, told The Sacramento Bee. "It's basically a form of coercion."

The case against Webber and his family is set to take place during the upcoming National Basketball Association season. Webber, who hopes to challenge for an NBA title this season with the Sacramento Kings, could be pressured into cutting a deal in order to avoid missing games to defend himself.

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