Canadian NHL player Mike Danton was arrested by officials from the FBI in California for his alleged role in a murder-for-hire plot.
Danton was apprehended in San Jose on Friday morning, just hours after playing for the St. Louis Blues in Thursday night's playoff game against the Sharks.
A criminal complaint filed in a federal court in Illinois states that Danton and a woman, 19-year-old Katie Wolfmeyer, allegedly attempted to hire a man to kill a male acquaintance.
The acquaintance had quarreled with Danton last Tuesday. The FBI said Danton claimed he took action because he feared for his life.
"It's beyond shock," said Blues forward Doug Weight on Saturday. "I don't know what to say."
"It's tough," Blues forward Keith Tkachuk told reporters. "I don't know what's going on. You guys probably know more than I do."
According to the complaint, Danton told Wolfmeyer that a "hit man" from Canada was coming to kill him and asked her if she knew someone who would kill the person for $10,000 US.
Authorities said Wolfmeyer, who was also arrested, confessed to helping Danton try to locate a "hit man," and that this person spoke with Danton on Wednesday.
The FBI said Danton hatched a plot where the man could kill the "hit man" at Danton's apartment. The plan was to make it look like two burglars had broken in, one being killed and the other making off with $3,000 Danton had in a safe.
The criminal complaint also said the argument involved "promiscuity and use of alcohol" by Danton, who "begged the acquaintance not to go to [Blues general manager Larry Pleau] ... and ruin his career."
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the court document also describes a recorded phone call the FBI persuaded the unidentified man to make to Danton, apparently before his arrest.
"The acquaintance called Danton and asked Danton why he wanted to have him killed," it says. "Danton broke down and sobbed. Danton explained that he felt backed into a corner and also felt that the acquaintance was going to leave him. Danton did not want to allow the acquaintance to leave him, therefore decided to have him murdered."
Authorities said Friday they have no reason to believe that the acquaintance or anyone else had been planning to kill Danton. "We couldn't confirm that to be accurate," said Marshall Stone, supervisory FBI special agent in Springfield, Ill.
Danton is charged with conspiring and using a telephone across state lines to set up a murder. If convicted, faces up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $250,000 US on each of the two counts.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Danton's agent Dave Frost, said he'd spoken with his client after the arrest. "Unequivocally, I can tell you it had nothing to do with drugs and alcohol, period. Once we get all the facts, we'll be able to realize what really happened. He's a good kid. He really is."
Frost also took time to counter growing speculation in headlines and wire stories that the incident involved Danton's fear of being outed as gay.
"This has nothing to do with a gay lover or his relationship with any female," Frost told the New York Daily News. "We're going to get him some help, some treatment. He's had some issues from his younger years that he needs to deal with."
"Once this story comes out, people are going to realize it's a simple thing. Psychologically, Mike's not where he needs to be. He's in a state of depression. He's in a state of paranoia. There was no fear of Larry Pleau. No fear of a gay lover."
Blues spokesman Frank Buonomo declined to comment Friday, saying in a statement, "The matter is in the hands of law enforcement officials and the judicial system."
The 23-year-old Danton was born near Toronto in Brampton Ont. He played junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League for the Sarnia Sting, St. Mike's Majors and Barrie Colts.
The New Jersey Devils drafted him in the fifth round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He was suspended by the Devils for the 2001-02 season after a dispute with general manger Lou Lamoriello.
Danton played 17 games with the Devils last season, before being traded to the Blues during the summer.
"He brings a great presence to the dressing room, so it's just real tough to see him go through this," Blues defenceman Bryce Salvador said. "I really do feel like he's family. It's unfortunate, because he's a great guy."
"We're worried about his life right now and what he's going through," added Weight. "It's a scary thought."
"I feel for him and I'm praying for him."
In summer of 2002 he legally changed his name from Michael Jefferson to Michael Danton. Reports say that was an outcome of his troubled relationship with his family.
with files from Associated Press