Former NBA star pleads not guilty to lying to authorities
RICHMOND, Va. -- Ralph Sampson pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of lying to federal authorities about his finances in a child support case. His trial was scheduled for July 17.
The former NBA and Virginia star waived the reading of the indictment and answered routine questions during a 10-minute court appearance. He responded "not guilty" when asked for his plea on each of the four counts.
He is charged with perjury, making a false claim, mail fraud and making a false statement. If convicted in the nonjury trial, he faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count, federal prosecutor Sara Flannery said.
The 7-foot-4 ex-player remains free on bond with travel restrictions.
Sampson pleaded guilty last year in Richmond to failing to pay about $300,000 in court-ordered child support for two children who live in northern Virginia and have different mothers. Sentencing was postponed after Sampson was indicted on the perjury and false claim charges in January. A superseding indictment on May 3 added the mail fraud and false statement charges.
The 46-year-old Sampson, who lives in Atlanta, made his first court appearance on the child support charges in Georgia. The latest indictment alleges that Sampson told authorities there that he was self-employed by "Sampson Communications" and had no income. Prosecutors claim Sampson was earning $5,000 per month as a consultant for one company and made commercials and promotional appearances for another in exchange for a $200,000 home.
The indictment also says Sampson denied owning a $43,000 sport utility vehicle, which he bought using a corporate identity, and that he sent documents regarding the SUV from Georgia to Virginia for the purpose of defrauding a financing company.
Sampson was drafted No. 1 overall by the Houston Rockets in 1983. In nine NBA seasons, he averaged 15.4 points.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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