Gooden sentenced to year in prison

The former baseball star will likely spend about 7½  months in state prison with credit for time already served in jail and a drug treatment facility.

Published April 5, 2006

TAMPA - Former baseball star Dwight Gooden was sentenced to a year and a day in prison Wednesday for violating his probation by using cocaine, the latest legal trouble for the once-dominant pitcher.

With credit for time already served in jail and a drug treatment facility, the 41-year-old likely will spend about 7½  months in state prison, said his attorney, Peter Hobson. He will seek further drug treatment in prison, but he may not get into a program because there is so much demand for them.

Gooden was serving three years' probation for speeding away from police during a drunken driving traffic stop last year. He chose the prison sentence over reinstatement of his probation and the prospect of serving five years behind bars if he violates it again. When he gets out of prison, he'll be finished with probation.

"I have a problem, sir, with cocaine," Gooden, dressed in an orange jail outfit, told state Circuit Judge Daniel L. Perry. "I had a cocaine relapse."

Gooden failed a drug test last month and told a probation officer he had used cocaine, prosecutors said.

As part of his probation, he had been ordered to stay away from alcohol, drugs and bars, and submit to a minimum of three random urine tests a week. He also spent two months in an inpatient addiction treatment facility.

Regarding his choice of prison over reinstatement of probation, Hobson said Gooden "made a decision that he in his mind thought was best for him."

"This is not a case of a pampered athlete," Hobson said. "He took it like a man. He took it like any citizen in this situation. He didn't whimper, he didn't cry, he didn't beg. He took it like a man."

Prosecutor Pam Bondi, who had sought unspecified prison time for Gooden, said she hopes he can get the help he needs and get on with his life.

"He let a lot of people down," Bondi said. "The most important person was himself. This shows the power of an addiction."

In November, Gooden apologized to the court when he pleaded guilty to a felony count of fleeing police, misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and obstruction and to an unrelated charge of hitting his girlfriend.

Gooden, who is from Tampa, was pulled over for driving erratically in the early morning hours of Aug. 22, police said. Slurring his words and smelling of alcohol, he twice refused to get out of the car for a field sobriety test and bolted while the officer was still holding his driver's license, police said.

Gooden was arrested by Tampa police in 2002 on a drunken driving charge but later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and received a year probation.

He was suspended for 60 days in 1994 for testing positive for cocaine while with the New York Mets. He tested positive for cocaine again while on suspension and was sidelined for the 1995 season.

Gooden was the 1984 Rookie of the Year and 1985 NL Cy Young Award winner while with the Mets. He went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA before retiring in 2001. He also pitched for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.