Strawberry sentenced to two year house arrest

Tuesday, September 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. – Eight-time baseball All-Star Darryl Strawberry was sentenced to two years' house arrest Tuesday after admitting to driving under the influence of medication and leaving the scene of an accident.

Strawberry, who is again fighting colon cancer, apologized during a brief hearing before Circuit Judge Florence Foster for causing a Monday morning traffic accident. He said he blacked out from his medication.

"I used the wrong judgment ... taking medication because I didn't feel well,'' he told the court. "I just blacked out. I didn't know if I hurt anybody. I feel really bad about that.''

Foster was the judge who placed the suspended New York Yankees outfielder on probation last year in a drug and solicitation case.

Strawberry spent Monday night in jail after an off-duty Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy saw the player hit a road sign, then turn onto another street and rear-end a sport utility vehicle stopped at a red light.

After he admitted to the two charges, state prosecutors recommended and the judge agreed that he be sentenced to two years of community control, during which he must stay at his home except for specifically permitted outings.

He was told to follow his physician's orders in taking medicine and to not drive again while taking the medication.

If he successfully completes the first year of house arrest, the judge said, Strawberry will then go back to his regular drug-offender probation.

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

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

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

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.''

No one was injured. Damage to the two vehicles totaled about $2,800.

Strawberry, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 1998, 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.