Ex-NBA forward Kermit Washington requests release from prison, citing coronavirus concerns

Former NBA All-Star Kermit Washington has formally requested his release from prison, claiming that he is at “high risk of death or serious illness from COVID-19,” according to TMZ

The 68-year-old was sentenced to six years in prison in 2018 after he was convicted in a charity fraud case.

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There were more than 926,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Saturday afternoon, according to The New York Times. Many prisons across the country have been releasing inmates or transferring them to house arrest in recent weeks due to the pandemic, which is much harder to contain in a prison where inmates are living in such close and oftentimes unsanitary conditions.

“Only the court can correct this injustice and protect me and my life,” Washington said, via TMZ

Washington was selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 1973 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, and spent nearly a decade in the league before retiring after the 1981-82 season. After spending his first four seasons with the Lakers, Washington also had stints with the Boston Celtics, San Diego Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, where he earned his one and only All-Star nod. Washington came out of retirement briefly during the 1987-88 season, though played in just six games for the Golden State Warriors.

He is perhaps best remembered for “The Punch” in 1977, when he punched Houston forward Rudy Tomjanovich square in the face, sending him sprawling to the floor. Washington was suspended for 60 days, and Tomjanovich was hospitalized with a fractured skull, broken jaw and nose.

In total, Washington averaged 9.2 points and 8.3 rebounds over 507 games. 

He pleaded guilty to making a false statement on his tax return and aggravated identity theft in 2017 in connection with a charity fraud case, in which he was accused of stealing funds that were donated to charity work in Africa to help hungry and HIV-positive children, according to USA Today

“This former NBA player abused his fame and status to promote a charity scam by which he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars that he diverted to personal spending on lavish vacations, shopping sprees, and even plastic surgery for his girlfriend,” United States attorney Timothy Garrison said in a statement after his sentencing. “Although he told his donors that 100 percent of all donations would go to support charitable work in Africa, including a medical clinic for needy families and HIV-positive children, in fact he spent most of the donated funds on himself. His fraud scheme also victimized law-abiding taxpayers by stealing from the public treasury rather than paying taxes owed.”

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