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Three Pacers plead no contest to brawl charges

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. -- Indiana Pacers players Ron Artest,
Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson were sentenced to a year's
probation Friday, plus 60 hours of community service and $250 fines
for their roles in one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history.

The three, all of whom entered pleas of no contest, were also
ordered to undergo anger management counseling, although Oakland
County assistant prosecutor John Pietrofesa said Artest had already
completed the counseling as part of his NBA suspension.

"We're very satisfied with the resolution today," Pietrofesa
said. "They decided to take responsibility and to move forward,
and that's probably the best thing for everyone involved."

The brawl took place Nov. 19, during a game against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Before sentencing, Judge Julie Nicholson reminded the players
that whether they like it or not, they are seen as role models and
owe it to their fans to behave appropriately.

O'Neal said he was looking forward to putting the brawl behind
him and moving on, and that the community service would not be
difficult because he already enjoys volunteering.

Jackson did not respond to questions from reporters as he left
the court; Artest said only, "I just want to go home."

A no-contest plea in Michigan is not an admission of guilt but
is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

A fourth player charged in the brawl, David Harrison, faces an
Oct. 3 hearing. A fifth, Anthony Johnson, pleaded no contest last
week to a count of misdemeanor assault and battery and is scheduled
to be sentenced Oct. 7. Prosecutors have recommended that Johnson
perform community service and serve probation, along with paying
fines and court costs.

All the players were charged with misdemeanor assault and
battery, which carries a maximum sentence of 93 days in jail and a
$500 fine. But prosecutors have said community service makes more
sense than jail time.

Pietrofesa added that the sanctions placed on the players by the
NBA were taken into account when negotiating the sentences. Artest
was suspended for the rest of the season, Jackson for 30 games,
O'Neal for 25 and Johnson for five. The league did not suspend
Harrison.

An arbitrator later reduced O'Neal's suspension to 15 games, and
it was upheld in federal court.

Several fans also were charged in the brawl that started after
Pistons center Ben Wallace shoved Artest following a hard
foul.

After the players were separated, Artest was doused with a
beverage and rushed into the stands after the man he thought had
thrown the drink. Some of his teammates joined him in the stands
and clashed with fans on the court.

Charlie Haddad, one of the fans authorities say was punched by
two Indiana players after he went on the court, attended Friday's
hearing and sentencings. He submitted a written statement to the
court questioning why he received a harsher sentence than the
players did.

Haddad was sentenced in March to two years' probation and 100
hours of community service, plus 10 consecutive weekends in a
county work program for violating a local ordinance against
entering a performance space.

"It's been horrible," Haddad said outside of court, when asked
how his life has been since the brawl. "I thought I was the
victim."