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Strawberry Back in Court

September 12, 2000

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Darryl Strawberry’s future is again in the hands of Hillsborough Circuit Judge Florence Foster.

The judge who placed the suspended New York Yankees outfielder on probation last year in a drug and solicitation case was to preside over a hearing Tuesday for Strawberry, who was arrested for a traffic accident.

Strawberry, who’s battled cancer and drug abuse, was held without bail Monday after an off-duty officer said he saw the player scrape a road sign before turning onto another street and rear-ending an SUV stopped at a red light.

Strawberry’s lawyer said the player took prescription medication before he ``blacked out″ at the wheel of his sports utility vehicle.

``He took some kind of medication and that apparently caused some reaction and made him pass out,″ attorney Joseph Ficarrotta said. ``Where in the sequence he blacked out I don’t know.″

Strawberry faces two misdemeanor charges _ driving while impaired and leaving the scene of an accident with damage _ plus two counts of probation violation, which normally would not let him go free on bond.

Ficarrotta planned to ask Foster to consider releasing Strawberry to his home or to set bond at the hearing.

Strawberry, who had cancer surgery last month, told officers he had taken the sleeping medication Ambien, according to Hillsborough County sheriff’s spokesman Rod Reder.

Ficarrotta said Strawberry also has prescriptions for the narcotic painkillers Percocet and Vicodin.

The outfielder failed a field-sobriety test but a blood-alcohol test showed no alcohol in his system. He volunteered a urine sample for testing, and those results will take days.

Strawberry told deputies he was heading to a meeting with his probation officer. When he tried to drive on after hitting the SUV, Sgt. Anthony Kolka pulled over and confronted the player with his pistol drawn.

The officer said he banged on the window to get Strawberry’s attention.

``He just wanted to know: ‘What did I do? What did I do?’ like he didn’t know what happened,″ Kolka said. ``He said he didn’t know he hit the car or the sign.″

The officer, heading home in an unmarked car, said he was unaware the driver was Strawberry until a passerby told him.

``I wasn’t thinking about who the person was. My idea was to get him out of the car, get him secured,″ Kolka said. ``All I knew was the vehicle needed to be stopped to see what the problem was.″

Tanya Whitaker, 32, said Strawberry tried to drive around her SUV after the impact, and that’s when she saw the deputy first trying to stop him.

``He had the gun to Darryl’s window. He was trying to leave,″ said Whitaker, of nearby Land O’Lakes. ``Once the police officer realized who he (Strawberry) was, he said, ’You aren’t going to run from this one.‴

No one was injured. Damage totaled about $1,000 to Whitaker’s car and $1,800 to Strawberry’s vehicle.

Strawberry was suspended for most of last season after his arrest in Tampa in April 1999 on drug and solicitation charges.

He pleaded no contest and was sentenced by Foster to 18 months’ probation. He was suspended from baseball for a year in February, a month after he tested positive for cocaine

Strawberry, who had surgery for colon cancer in 1998 and for a stomach tumor last month, has follow-up doctor’s appointments scheduled in Tampa and New York, where he had his latest operation.

``He’s very serious and just anxious to hopefully get out and continue his treatment,″ Ficarrotta said.

``It’s a serious thing, and he knows that.″

___

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