Former Interior Secretary James Watt was sentenced Tuesday to five years' probation and a $5,000 fine for withholding documents from the federal grand jury investigating a government housing scandal.

Watt, one of the most controversial figures in the Reagan administration, had faced a possible jail term of up to six months at his sentencing before U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth."It seems to me that what you did there is out of character," Lamberth told Watt.

As conditions of his probation, Lamberth said, Watt would be prohibited from owning a firearm and would have to perform 500 hours of community service.

In a brief statement, Watt said he "made a serious mistake" in his conduct during the investigation of influence peddling involving the Department of Housing and Development in the 1980s. "I didn't take it seriously enough," Watt said.