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Strawberry sentenced

Former slugger gets 18 months for violating probation

Posted: Monday April 29, 2002 10:27 AM
Updated: Monday April 29, 2002 4:06 PM
  Darryl Strawberry Darryl Strawberry was originally sent to drug treatment but violated his probation six times. AP

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Darryl Strawberry was sentenced to 18 months in prison Monday for violating his probation on a 1999 conviction on drug and solicitation of prostitution charges.

Dressed in an orange jail-issued uniform, the 40-year-old former major league slugger said his "life is going in the right direction." He had been held at the Hillsborough County Jail since March awaiting sentencing.

"I would just like to get this behind me. I would like to do my 18 months and move on," Strawberry said. "I don't want to have this over my head."

He smiled slightly when Retired Judge Ralph Steinberg said he hopes Strawberry will return to baseball one day.

Strawberry's wife, Charisse, was in court. She declined to comment after the sentencing.

Steinberg ordered Strawberry to serve prison time from the original 1999 sentence. Strawberry fought the state's previous attempts to imprison him and was sent to drug treatment instead, but he has violated his probation six times.

The latest violation involved breaking the rules of the drug treatment center by smoking, having sex with a resident and trading baseballs for cigarettes.

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Again on Monday, Strawberry's lawyer suggested a treatment center. But Judge Florence Foster, who repeatedly opted for treatment instead of prison for Strawberry, is no longer presiding over his case. Steinberg, brought back into service to replace Foster while she is on medical leave, was firmly decided on prison.

Strawberry's lawyer, Darryl Rouson, said he expects his client will serve fewer than 13 months and will get credit for time already spent in jail -- nearly two months in 2001 and more than a month this year.

Under Florida law, inmates must serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentences before they are released.

Rouson wants Strawberry sent to Zephyrhills Correctional Institution near Tampa, which has programs for both drug-addicted and mentally ill inmates. Rouson said the Department of Corrections probably will decide within 10 days where Strawberry will serve his sentence.

Last year, Foster suspended Strawberry's 18-month prison sentence, provided he completed the program at the Ocala-area drug treatment center.

Prosecutors had urged Foster to send Strawberry to prison after he violated house arrest at another drug treatment center by escaping and going on a cross-state drug binge. However, Strawberry's lawyer said the eight-time All-Star needed medical care and mental health services not available in Florida prisons.

Strawberry was on World Series championship teams with the New York Mets in 1986 and the New York Yankees in 1996 and 1999. Along with his legal problems, he has been treated for colon and stomach cancer. Strawberry has not used drugs for more than a year, his attorney said.

Ron Dock, a counselor at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa who has stood by Strawberry through his numerous brushes with the law, said: "He's at peace. I am very proud of that man. He's not that little boy from a few months ago. He's a man today."

Dock said Strawberry no longer talks about returning to baseball. Just days before Strawberry's latest arrest, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said he hoped to bring Strawberry back to the organization to work with younger players.

Assistant Hillsborough County State Attorney Darrell Dirks was pleased with Monday's outcome.

"He didn't like someone telling him what to do," Dirks told the judge. "At some point he should be punished for that."

 
Related information
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