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The defendant in criminal case No. CR-1-90-044, the United States of America versus Peter Edward Rose, entered Courtroom Four in the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office Building in Cincinnati at 9:45 a.m. last Thursday. A small knot of spectators in the back of the packed room burst into applause, but Rose, dressed in a dark, pinstriped suit, white shirt and rose-colored tie, stared straight ahead as he limped to his seat—he had injured his right knee playing stickball the weekend before. In a few minutes, U.S. District Judge Arthur Spiegel would sentence him for having filed false income tax returns in 1985 and 1987, felony counts to which Rose had pleaded guilty in April.
Here, in his hometown of Cincinnati, Rose was only four blocks from Riverfront Stadium, the scene of his greatest triumphs, and only four years removed from his 4,256th and final base hit. Not so long ago it appeared as if the most prolific hitter in baseball history would go directly to Cooperstown. Now, however, Rose, banned from baseball for life last August for having associated with drug traffickers and gamblers, would be going directly to jail. Many of the sportswriters who came to see him sentenced last Thursday had seen him in all his glory. They, like Rose, wore befuddled looks.
Judge Spiegel entered the courtroom at 10 a.m., and after the 200 spectators rose, the clerk pronounced, "God save the United States and this court." He might well have added "and Pete Rose" to that ritual proclamation. Spiegel asked Rose if he would like to make a statement before sentencing, and Rose said he would.
Reading from a small piece of paper, he said, "Your Honor, I would like to say that I am very sorry. I am very shameful to be here today in front of you. I think I'm perceived as a very aggressive, arrogant type of individual, but I want people to know that I do have emotion, I do have feelings, and I can be hurt like everybody else, and I hope no one has to go through what I went through the last year and a half. I lost my dignity. I lost my self-respect. I lost a lot of dear fans and almost lost some very dear friends."
At that point, Rose's voice quavered, but he regained his composure and finished his statement. He said, "I really have no excuses, because it's all my fault, and all I can say is, I hope somewhere, somehow...I'm going to try to make it up to everybody that I...let down."
Before he passed sentence, Spiegel had this comment: "Foremost, we must recognize that there are two people here: Pete Rose the living legend, the alltime hit leader and the idol of millions, and Pete Rose the individual, who appears today convicted of two counts of cheating on his taxes.
"Today we are not dealing with the legend. History and the tincture of time will decide his place among the alltime greats of baseball. With regard to Pete Rose, the individual, he has broken the law, admitted his guilt and stands ready to pay the penalty."
The penalty as set forth by Spiegel was five months' imprisonment, one year of supervised release—the first three months of which are to be spent residing at a Cincinnati-area halfway house—1,000 hours of community service and continued psychiatric treatment for Rose's admitted gambling addiction. Rose was also fined $50,100. Spiegel recommended that Rose serve his time at the Federal Correctional Institute in Ashland, Ky. However, that camp will not be finished until the fall, and the judge had set Aug. 10 as Rose's reporting date. So on Friday, Spiegel changed his recommendation to a minimum-security facility camp in Marion, Ill. (According to a source close to the case, Spiegel had been reluctant to send Rose to Marion because most of the camp's prisoners perform jobs at a maximum-security facility adjacent to it, and Spiegel didn't want Rose to have to come into close contact with its more hardened criminals.)
Under the guidelines established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Rose was deemed a Category I, Level 11 felon. As such, he could have received a minimum of four months and a maximum of 14 months in prison, so he received one month over the minimum. The 1,000 hours of community service will be performed at five elementary schools in Cincinnati's inner city and at the LeBlond Boys Club.
Rose showed little reaction during the sentencing, but his wife, Carol, fought back tears. Marshals then escorted Rose, his wife and his lawyers out of the courtroom at approximately 10:30 a.m. On the courthouse steps, the Rose party plowed past photographers and into a waiting car. "They [Rose and his wife] were hit very hard by it," said Barbara Pinzka, Pete's publicist, who was with the Roses after the sentencing. "Carol was shaky, almost panicky. Pete was angry at the mess he had gotten himself into."