Wizards' Strickland Enters Not-Guilty Pleas

Article excerpt

Washington Wizards point guard Rod Strickland pleaded not guilty to drunken driving and disorderly conduct charges after being stopped early yesterday for making an illegal U-turn near the Third Street tunnel in Northwest.

D.C. Police said Strickland, who could not produce a driver's license when he was stopped about 1:50 a.m., was abusive toward the arresting officer, who had to call additional officers for help. Police said Strickland was stepping into traffic and forcing cars to stop during the arrest.

"He said, `Do you know who I am?' " one police source said. "And he called the officer an `arrogant mother.' "

Flanked by his attorneys, Billy Martin and John Mercer, Strickland later pleaded not guilty to charges of driving under the influence, disorderly conduct and failing to have his driver's license. D.C. Superior Court Commissioner Dennis Doyle set a Jan. 21 trial date.

In a statement, Wizards general manager Wes Unseld said, "We are aware of the charges made against Rod Strickland this morning, and, obviously, this is a situation that Washington Sports and Entertainment [the team's parent corporation] does not take lightly. When we have the opportunity to speak with Rod, we will hear his account of the incident. Until we have further information, we will have no other comment."

Attorney Martin said, "We'll await his day in court," after Strickland was whisked out a rear door of the courthouse. Martin would not comment on Strickland's refusal to take a Bbreathalyzer test or statements he may have made. He added, "It's an unfortunate situation. He was guilty only of being a black man driving an expensive Mercedes Benz."

Officer Kevin Graham, who also is black, stopped Strickland's white 1997 Mercedes after it made a U-turn from eastbound New York Avenue at Fourth Street Northwest about 1:50 a.m.

Strickland, 31, of the 8000 block of Wingate Drive in Glenn Dale, then refused to take a Breathalyzer test when he was taken to the 1st District police station at 415 Fourth St. …