Lawyer: Darryl Needs Help, Not Jail

Thursday, October 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Darryl Strawberry is remorseful about his latest run-in with the law but needs to be back in a residential drug treatment center instead of jail, the former baseball star's attorney said Thursday.

Strawberry appeared briefly before Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Manuel Menendez on Thursday morning via closed circuit television from the county jail where he is being held. Strawberry did not speak.

Menendez advised Strawberry of the charges against him for violating his probation by using drugs and breaking his house arrest, and sent the case back to the drug court judge who last month sentenced the eight-time all-star to two year house arrest. No hearing date is set.

Defense attorney Joseph Ficarrotta said Strawberry has been under tremendous distress battling cancer and a fierce drug addiction. Strawberry recently started chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer that had spread to his stomach, Ficarrotta said.

``The easiest thing for the judge and the public to do is say: 'How many chances is Darryl Strawberry going to get?''' Ficarrotta said. ''...I am not ready to give up on Darryl Strawberry.''

Strawberry was arrested Wednesday for leaving the Tampa drug treatment center he now calls home for a weekend crack and prescription drug binge with a female friend.

The Florida Department of Corrections, which is supervising Strawberry's house arrest, intends to ask Circuit Court Judge Florence Foster to sentence Strawberry to 30 days in jail and asks that he wear an electronic monitoring device once he's returned to house arrest.

Joe Papy, head of the regional office of the Florida Department of Corrections in Tampa, said Strawberry has never spent more than 24 hours in jail despite legal troubles that date back to 1990. Papy said he hopes a longer jail term will get Strawberry's attention.

But Ficarrotta said Strawberry has problems that are so complicated that jail is not a solution, although he does not object to electronic monitoring as a means to keep closer tabs on the former outfielder.

Strawberry has for about a month been at the modest treatment center selected by his probation officer.

Ficarrotta said he met with Strawberry at the Hillsborough County Jail on Wednesday night and Strawberry was remorseful. He also wants to return to treatment, Ficarrotta said.

``He wants to live, he wants to beat this addiction,'' Ficarrotta said.

According to documents filed with the court, Strawberry's probation officer says the slugger was picked up at the center by a woman who took him to use drugs. They were gone from about 11 p.m. Saturday until 3 a.m. Sunday.

Strawberry later told his probation officer he used crack cocaine and took about 10 Xanax, a prescription drug used to treat anxiety.

Probation officials knew immediately that Strawberry left the treatment center without permission, but waited until they had the results of drug tests Wednesday to arrest him, Papy said.

Strawberry's house arrest was punishment after he pleaded no contest in April 1999 to drug and prostitution charges. He was originally sentenced to 18 months probation, but violated that last month when he admitted causing a minor traffic accident while driving under the influence of pain killers.

A judge changed the probation to two years of house arrest. Strawberry still faces misdemeanor charges in that case.

``I'm saddened by it,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said before Game 4 of the World Series. ``People who know Darryl feel for him. ... He's going through a very tough time. He's doing it to himself, basically. That's the sad part.''

The arrest Wednesday is the latest in a string of problems for the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year and eight-time All Star.

In February, Strawberry was suspended for at least a year, his third cocaine-related suspension from baseball in five years.

In 1998, Strawberry was diagnosed with colon cancer, which was treated with surgery and chemotherapy. In August, he underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his stomach.