Published: 00:00, 13 May 2002
| Updated: 12:39, 13 May 2002
GILLINGHAM FC has vowed to support striker Marlon King as he serves an 18-month prison sentence for handling stolen goods. The £5 million-rated star was jailed at Inner London Crown Court on Friday after being caught at the wheel of a stolen £32,000 BMW convertible.
He had previously told a jury he paid half the value for the top of the range car from "a bloke called Bigga" who wanted to "sell it in a hurry". King, 22, who lives in Forest Hill, south-east London, had denied handling stolen goods on or between June 17 and July 23 last year, but was found guilty .
During the four-day trial back in March, he said he believed the BMW 325 i Cabriolet, bought outside Camberwell Magistrates Court, was cheap because it had been imported from Germany.
On the Gillingham FC website, chairman Paul Scally said: "We are all in a state of shock. This does appear to be an exceptionally severe penalty for the crime Marlon has committed. Knowing Marlon, as we do, we genuinely believe he did not realise he had bought a stolen car.
"Perhaps out of a misguided sense of loyalty, he was keen to protect the name of the person who sold it to him. That has gone against him and cost him this harsh sentence.
"We have spoken to his father, who is understandably distressed by the situation, and have arranged to meet him next week to see if there is anyway the club can assist Marlon."
Mr Scally added that the club was "disturbed" that the defence legal team did not ask the club for a character reference. He said: "We would have described Marlon as a model professional. He is an amiable and pleasant lad, who is now likely to have several months in prison in which he can reflect on the errors he has made."
King's solicitor Michael Conning had pleaded for leniency, telling the judge his client had not had the advantage of being "groomed for stardom" from a young age by a football academy, but had come from a disadvantaged background. King realised how "extremely foolish" he was and was full of remorse".
The day before he was sent to prison, King was cleared of a separate charge of assaulting a police officer.