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    Judge: Strawberry secret unintended

    Prosecutors, probation officials and a defense attorney met privately Thursday about the case.

    By DAVID KARP

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2001


    TAMPA -- A closed-door court session about former New York Yankee Darryl Strawberry wasn't meant to be a secret, a circuit judge said Friday.

    Prosecutors, probation officials and a defense attorney met privately Thursday with Circuit Judge Florence Foster to discuss the progress of the investigation into the former baseball slugger's case.

    Foster must decide Strawberry's punishment for leaving a court-ordered drug treatment center last week and going on a four-day cocaine binge. Strawberry later claimed that he had been kidnapped from Tampa and taken to an Orlando motel, according to police reports.

    Foster said the lawyers and probation officials discussed Thursday which witnesses might be called and talked about how much time the investigation might take. Foster had hoped to schedule a probation violation hearing next week but now thinks the investigation will take more time.

    "No decision was made," Foster said. Neither side discussed the evidence against Strawberry, she said.

    Foster said she did not intend to close the proceeding to the press. Future proceedings will be held in open court, she said.

    "No one asked to come in," she said. "If they had, they would have been allowed in."

    A Fox News television reporter waited outside Foster's courtroom during the meeting and asked people afterward what had happened, according to a report on WTVT-Ch. 13. No one, including the judge, would discuss what happened.

    Foster's judicial assistant didn't mention the court proceeding to a Times reporter asking about the case, and the court clerk had no notice about the session either.

    Already under a court order for past drug charges, Strawberry, 39, has violated his probation four times. The last time, Foster rejected a recommendation the Strawberry be sent to prison.

    Prosecutors want Foster to send Strawberry to Florida State Prison this time. An 18-month term is recommended.

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