Artest sentenced to community service, work project

AUBURN, Calif. -- Sacramento Kings forward Ron Artest pleaded no contest Thursday to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge stemming from a March 5 dispute with his wife, the latest in a string of off-court problems.

Placer County Superior Court Judge Francis Kearney sentenced Artest to 100 hours of community service and a 10-day work project through the county sheriff's department. Artest also was fined $600 and ordered to get extensive counseling.

Kearney modified the restraining order that has kept Artest away from his wife, Kimsha, and three children since the incident at his $1.85 million mansion in Loomis, 25 miles northeast of Sacramento.

Artest will be allowed to have peaceful contact with his wife, and there are no restrictions on contact with his children. The judge said an attorney for Artest's wife appeared before her Thursday morning to say that Kimsha Artest no longer wanted any restrictions on their contact.

He was accused of grabbing, pushing and slapping his wife during an argument and preventing her from calling 911. The couple's 3-year-old daughter was home at the time.

Artest was charged with corporal injury to a spouse, battery, false imprisonment and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, all misdemeanors. He pleaded no contest to the first charge, while the others were dismissed, although they could be restored if he violates the terms of his three-year probation.

Artest declined to comment outside the courthouse, but his attorney said he was pleased to put the matter behind him.

"He's just so happy he's going to see his kids," attorney William Portanova said. "He's in heaven. He would take any punishment and go through anything to be reunited with them."

The judge agreed to a plea deal that Artest reached with Assistant District Attorney Dan Quick. In addition to the fine, community service and probation, Artest agreed to a 20-day work project with 10 days suspended, a yearlong violence treatment program and attending a parenting class on the effects of domestic violence on young children.

The details of the work project and community service will be determined by a probation officer in consultation with the sheriff department. The judge ordered Artest to provide evidence that he had complied with the order to meet with the county officials by June 25.

Artest is selling his Loomis home after a series of problems there since he joined the Kings in January 2006.

Kimsha Artest told a sheriff's dispatcher on March 5 that her finger was cut and her leg scratched during an altercation with her husband. She said he shoved her to the ground, slapped her and prevented her from making a 911 call.

She also said she broke the windshield of the family's Hummer as Artest tried to drive away from the property, according to a recording of her call released by the sheriff's department.

Sheriff's deputies previously had been summoned to at least two other domestic disturbances at Artest's home, among the five times they responded to 911 calls there since last August.

Animal services officers seized Artest's Great Dane, named Socks, in February after weeks of complaints from neighbors that the dog appeared to be starving.

Placer County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Wilson announced last week that there was insufficient evidence to charge either Artest or his wife with animal cruelty or neglect.

Artest apologized to his family and his teammates and sat out two games after he was charged in the March incident. He was not suspended from the team, but he may face discipline from the league now that his criminal case is settled.

Kings spokesman Troy Hanson said the team was pleased for Artest that the issue was resolved. He said the Kings, who failed to make the playoffs amid infighting and unimpressive play, have no immediate plans to trade Artest, although NBA teams are barred from discussing trades during the playoffs.

Artest came to Sacramento with a troubled past.

He was suspended from the Indiana Pacers for 73 games and lost nearly $5 million in salary after he jumped into the stands and threw punches during a brawl with Detroit Pistons fans in 2004. He and teammate Stephen Jackson were sentenced to one year of probation and 60 hours of community service after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault charges.