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State wants Strawberry in prison


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2000

TAMPA -- If prosecutors have their way, suspended Yankees outfielder Darryl Strawberry will do hard time for what officials say is his latest drug offense: smoking crack and popping mood-lifting prescription drugs two weeks ago while on probation.

"We will be seeking prison time," said Pam Bondi, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office. Under Florida guidelines, Strawberry could get up to five years in prison, Bondi said.

Strawberry's probation officer, however, is recommending 30 days in the county jail followed by use of an electronic monitoring device and commitment to a residential drug treatment facility.

"Our recommendation will still stand," Joseph Papy, regional director for the Florida Department of Corrections, said after learning prosecutors will press for prison time during a hearing this morning before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Florence Foster. "We'll see what the judge does."

The 38-year-old Strawberry, who has had treatment for the recurrence of cancer, was denied bail after his arrest Oct. 25. He is accused of slipping out of an inpatient treatment center in the middle of the night to binge on crack cocaine and 10 pills of Xanax with a friend, referred to in court documents as "Christine." Officials say he also violated probation by disobeying curfew.

His four-hour disappearance was immediately noticed by officials, and Strawberry did not deny the drug binge, Papy said. The former All-Star took a drug test the next day and was arrested two days later when the tests came back positive, Papy said.

Joseph Ficarrotta, who has represented Strawberry, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

"The state's position is he's still a danger to society by abusing the cocaine and other narcotics and not being where he should be," said Robin Fuson, chief of the narcotics division at the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.

Two months ago Foster sentenced Strawberry to two years' house arrest for violating probation.

At the time, Strawberry admitted to leaving the scene of an accident and driving under the influence of prescription drugs. He told Foster he was on his way to see his probation officer when he crashed. The misdemeanor traffic charges are pending.

Under the terms of Strawberry's house arrest, he needed his probation officer's permission to go anywhere. His state violation report suggests he no longer lived with his wife and three children at their house in the gated Cheval subdivision.

Two years ago, Strawberry had surgery for colon cancer and had chemotherapy after doctors discovered the cancer had spread to a lymph node. He returned last season and hit a three-run home run that helped the Yankees advance to the American League Championship Series.

Three months later, Strawberry tested positive for cocaine and was suspended from baseball for the third time.

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