tampabay.com

Gooden turns self in at jail

The former pitcher surrenders to face charges of driving under the influence and fleeing police.

By BRADY DENNIS and SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published August 26, 2005


TAMPA - Dwight Gooden, the former pitcher who soared to the top of the baseball world, reached a new low point Thursday when he surrendered to authorities at a Hillsborough County jail.

Accompanied by his attorney, Gooden turned himself in at the warrants division of Falkenburg Road Jail just before 5 p.m., more than 31/2 days after he allegedly fled from a traffic stop in South Tampa.

"This is what he needed to do," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "This was in his best interest. This is the first step to him getting the help he needs."

Deputies transported Gooden to the Orient Road Jail and booked him on an outstanding warrant for driving under the influence, fleeing and eluding police and obstructing an officer without violence.

Gooden already had been out of jail on bail from a domestic violence arrest in March.

Since early Monday, authorities had interviewed family and friends and visited places he was known to frequent. McElroy said Gooden's attorney, Peter Hobson of Tampa, had been in contact with law enforcement officials since Wednesday.

"He was talking to all of these agencies about convincing his client to turn himself in," she said.

On Thursday night, Gooden was being held without bail, with a hearing set for 9 a.m. today to consider revoking bail in his domestic violence case.

McElroy said detectives do not yet know where Gooden has been for the past few days.

"We haven't talked to him," she said. "At this point, we're just relieved he turned himself in."

Efforts to reach Gooden's friends and family were unsuccessful Thursday evening. Billy Reed, his former coach at Hillsborough High School, said he was relieved Gooden turned himself in but felt frustrated - again - with his former player.

"You want the best for him, regardless," Reed said. "I just hope he realizes he's a grown man now; he's got to change his act. You got to take some responsibility. He's just digging himself a hole."

Devil Rays manager and fellow Tampa native Lou Piniella said Thursday it's not too late for Gooden to turn his life around.

"Dwight's got a lot to offer. He's just got to get himself to the point where his priorities are in order," Piniella said. "There's a lot of people that care about him and love him and are willing to help him. The only problem is, you've got to help yourself."

According to reports, his latest saga began about 2:40 a.m. Monday on Cleveland Street when a police officer noticed the former pitcher's BMW weaving in and out of his lane and pulled him over.

The officer said Gooden's speech was slurred, his eyes bloodshot and that he smelled of alcohol.

When asked to get out for a field sobriety test, Gooden refused. He hit the gas pedal and drove off, police said.

This has been an especially difficult year for Gooden, who is no stranger to trouble. Since spring, he has been arrested on a domestic violence charge, continued a legal battle with his ex-wife and lost his $100,000-a-year job with the Yankees.

In a 17-year career with the New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Houston Astros, Gooden signed contracts worth $35-million. But drugs and injuries undercut the Tampa native and onetime Hillsborough High School star.

He was tossed out of baseball three different times for cocaine use.

Along with his recent arrests, Gooden remains mired in a bitter divorce battle with his ex-wife, Monica Gooden, much of which has centered on Gooden's dwindling finances.

Gooden was ordered last year to pay $4,000 a month in alimony, $280 a month in rehabilitative alimony and $1,929 a month in child support. Family Law Judge Monica Sierra made those calculations based on his $100,000 a year Yankees salary and $46,500 she figured he could make from the sale of autographed sports memorabilia.

But in April, Gooden parted ways with the Yankees. Thus, he said in court papers, he no longer can afford to pay alimony and child support and asked that those amounts be reduced.

Earlier this month, his oldest son also found himself with legal problems. Dwight Eugene Gooden Jr., 19, was arrested Aug. 7 after authorities said they found marijuana and gun ammunition in his car. He also faces two counts of violation of probation on previous possession of cocaine charges.