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    Strawberry admits breaking rules

    The ex-baseball star tells a judge he flouted rules at a substance abuse center. He will learn his fate later.

    By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 20, 2002

    TAMPA -- Former Yankees star Darryl Strawberry admitted Friday that he violated his probation by breaking the rules of an Ocala substance abuse center where he was sent last year.

    That leaves Strawberry's fate in the hands of Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Florence Foster, who is scheduled to sentence him April 29. Prosecutors are asking that Strawberry receive 18 months in prison.

    Darryl Rouson, Strawberry's lawyer, said Strawberry is aware his admissions could result in prison time. But he said Strawberry did not want to put his family and the legal system through the ordeal of a legal dispute about the allegations against him.

    "He has hit another home run in his journey to sobriety," Rouson said, and added: "He's at peace with this."

    Rouson is also president of the St. Petersburg NAACP.

    "For the first time he's becoming a man by being accountable," said Ron Dock, 52, a Strawberry family friend. "That's a breakthrough."

    In April 1999, Strawberry was arrested and charged with cocaine possession and soliciting a prostitute. He received probation but violated it five times, once by indulging in a four-day drug binge in March 2001.

    Despite the cries of critics who thought she was being too lenient on the former baseball star, Foster gave him a suspended 18-month prison sentence with the condition that he complete the drug treatment program.

    But Strawberry, 40, was kicked out of the program in March. Authorities say he flouted rules by having sex with another resident and trading sports memorabilia for cigarettes.

    The judge called in sick Friday, so retired Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ralph Steinberg took her place on the bench. In a brief statement to the judge, Strawberry apologized to his friends and family, as well as to the Phoenix House, and thanked people -- including Foster -- for their support.

    "I'm on the right road," Strawberry said, adding he would take responsibility for breaking the rules of the drug treatment center.

    -- Times staff writer Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) -226-3337 or

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