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Judge steps out of Gooden case

By Times Staff
Published September 13, 2005

TAMPA - A Hillsborough Circuit judge recused himself Monday from presiding over the case of former baseball star Dwight Gooden. Citing his brother's ties to the ex-Yankees pitcher, Judge Ronald Ficarrotta said he wanted to avoid "even the appearance of impropriety" and asked that the case be moved to another court.

Although the judge's brother, Joseph Ficarrotta, a Tampa attorney, no longer represents Gooden, he has appeared in court on his behalf on a number of occasions.

Gooden, 41, turned himself in Aug. 25, three days after police said he fled in his BMW when an officer stopped him for driving erratically and asked him to take a sobriety test. The former baseball star is charged with driving under the influence, fleeing and eluding police and obstructing an officer without violence.

On Aug. 26, another Hillsborough Circuit judge revoked bail for Gooden, who was then out on bail for an unrelated domestic violence charge, and ordered him to receive treatment at a drug rehabilitation facility. Gooden is scheduled to enter a plea on the most recent charges in court today.

Unidentified body found in river

TAMPA - Police were investigating an "unexplained death" of a man whose body was found Monday floating in the Hillsborough River near downtown.

Someone called police at about 5 p.m. to report the body in the Hillsborough River just north of Kennedy Boulevard, and the department's dive team was called in, said Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin.

Police do not know the man's identity. He was clothed in jeans and a T-shirt, Durkin said. The body showed no signs of injury and the cause of death remained under investigation, he said.

[Last modified September 13, 2005, 01:45:22]

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