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Phoenix Judge Sentences Kareem : Abdul-Jabbar Ordered to Pay $1,340 for Shoving Incident

Times Staff Writer

Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, earlier found guilty of two misdemeanor charges stemming from a shoving incident at a shopping mall here last April, was fined $500 and told to pay $840.35 in restitution, Wednesday in Phoenix Municipal Court.

Abdul-Jabbar, 41, flanked by his attorneys and receiving a police escort, waived his right to appeal and spent only six minutes in court before leaving without speaking to reporters in a packed courtroom.

Judge John L. Wiehn had convicted Abdul-Jabbar Feb. 28 on assault and criminal damages charges for shoving a home video camera in the face of Fernando Nicolia, a tourist from Italy who was filming the Laker center at the Metrocenter shopping mall.

The maximum sentence possible was 10 months in jail and a $1,750 fine. Abdul-Jabbar had previously agreed to pay for damages to the camera.

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A civil suit seeking unspecified damages filed by Nicolia is pending in Maricopa County Superior Court, though a trial date has not been set. Attorneys for Abdul-Jabbar are trying to settle out of court.

Leonard Armato, Abdul-Jabbar’s attorney, said he and his client were happy that the case had been concluded but were upset that it came to trial.

“It’s a sad commentary on the judicial system that we have hardened criminals on the street and they spend taxpayers’ money to prosecute someone in a situation where he accidentally knocked a camera from somebody,” Armato said. “An ordinary citizen, if this had occurred, there would be no trial. The only reason it came to this is because a lower-level administrator got excited and decided to prosecute a celebrity.”

Abdul-Jabbar, honored by the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night as part of his National Basketball Assn. farewell tour, remained in Phoenix overnight while his Laker teammates returned to Los Angeles.

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Surrounded by five minicams and a dozen reporters at the courthouse, Abdul-Jabbar met with even more media coverage Wednesday than at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum the night before.

Charges were filed by city prosecutors, claiming that the shoving incident was an intentional action. The defense, however, claimed in was a reflexive action.

Asked why Abdul-Jabbar did not testify on his own behalf at the trial, Armato said: “It’s really a matter of time. He’s got to travel across the country. It really didn’t make sense to have him (testify).”

Armato would not comment about a possible settlement in the civil suit. But it is believed that Abdul-Jabbar’s attorneys are hoping for a settlement, if only to avoid publicity such as Wednesday’s.


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