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NBA Players Sentenced In Brawl

A judge on Friday sentenced Indiana Pacers players Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson to a year of probation, community service and a fine for their roles in one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history.

District Court Judge Julie Nicholson sentenced the men after they pleaded no contest earlier in the day to misdemeanor assault charges stemming from the Nov. 19 brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Nicholson ordered each of them to serve a year of probation, complete 60 hours of community service and pay a $250 fine. The players were also ordered to undergo anger management counseling, although a prosecutor said he believed Artest would be able to provide evidence that he had already completed the counseling.

O'Neal said he was looking forward to putting the brawl behind him and moving on. He also said that the community service portion of his sentence will not be difficult because he said he already enjoys volunteering.

"I really get into it," he said before getting into a limousine outside the courthouse in Rochester Hills. "I've lived the life that many of those kids live. I guess that community service just comes easy for me."

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

A fourth player, 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 Oakland County prosecutors have said community service makes more sense than jail time.

Several fans also were charged in the brawl that started after Detroit 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.

Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, Jackson for 30 games, O'Neal for 25 and Johnson for five as a result of the melee. The league did not suspend Harrison.

O'Neal's suspension was later reduced to 15 games by an arbitrator and upheld in federal court.

By Bree Fowler