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Darryl Strawberry Admits to Violating Probation

Aired May 4, 2001 - 10:13   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Darryl Strawberry has told the judge he admits violating parole, his probation on the 1999 conviction of drug and prostitution charges. Now the question is what should the sentence be for Darryl Strawberry. Also during Kate Snow's report, we heard the state ask for 18 months in Florida state prison for Darryl Strawberry.

His attorney now talking about the special circumstances that come up from this former baseball player, his long time drug addiction. Also, he continues to battle cancer. They're going to call a number of witnesses. Let's go ahead and listen in.

JOE FICARROTTA, ATTORNEY FOR DARRYL STRAWBERRY: I believe any individual that has appeared before Your Honor is an individual who's also fighting a battle, an ongoing battle against cancer and in doing that he has to take chemotherapy. And I bring that out not to get sympathy for Mr. Strawberry, but to let the court know the type of battle that Darryl Strawberry is fighting and has been fighting.

It's very simple, Your Honor, for anyone here in this courtroom to feel that well, why doesn't he just stop? He's got so many chances. How many chances are you going to give Darryl Strawberry?

The public has to be educated, Your Honor, and this is the most perfect form to do that. I believe the court and also Judge Evans (ph), Dawn Evans (ph), the chief judge in drug court, said some statements several weeks ago which really show and demonstrate what drug court is all about. And I'm going to go into that shortly.

But this is an opportunity for the court to place out on a public forum the problems with drugs in society and what do we do with individuals like Darryl Strawberry. Now, I know there's been a lot that, well, how many chances is he going to get, and I would respectfully submit to the court whether it's four or 14 relapses, if it's truly a drug court, Your Honor, then Mr. Strawberry should be given all the benefits that society has to offer and that is not prison.

Drug addiction is a disease and what drug addiction needs is treatment, Your Honor. Because if not, this society is never going to be able to solve the problems that we face ourselves in now. But I think the most unique thing, Your Honor, is that in looking at Darryl Strawberry's case, it's easy to say well, my god, he's had so many different chances. But what makes him unique besides the medical problems that we're going to show quite clearly is the fact that he keeps on trying. And you see, that's what really makes a difference here in this court, Your Honor, as far as the way I look at it and examine the situation.

Darryl Strawberry is an individual who's messed up many times in his life but he keeps on trying. He keeps on giving it the good fight and he keeps on giving it the good effort. And who are we or anybody in the courtroom to know what it's like to fight drug addiction alone, not the emotional situation, but drug addiction alone? How tough a fight is that? And then you add the cancer and it becomes almost an insurmountable battle.

But Mr. Strawberry has chosen always to go back to treatment and to make a better life for himself.

Briefly, Your Honor, I'd like to show you just a graph which we're going to go into through the testimony of our witnesses, which hopefully is going to show the ups and downs in Darryl Strawberry's life.

JUDGE FLORENCE FOSTER, HILLSBOROUGH CIRCUIT COURT: Let me ask a question. Would Mr. Strawberry rather sit down than stand?

FICARROTTA: Do you want to sit down?


FICARROTTA: And this was put together with the purpose of graphically showing, not a graph but graphically showing what Darryl Strawberry has gone through in his life, Your Honor, and just quite briefly, it's broken down into his life in baseball, and I say that not for the media, but to say it because this has had such an important part in Darryl Strawberry's life.

FOSTER: Mr. Strawberry, if you'd like to move your chair so you can see what's being demonstrated to me, you may. This is like a trial and if anybody wants to move and get situated so they're more comfortable, that's fine.

FICARROTTA: And I say that, Your Honor, because one thing that I think that really speaks out for Darryl Strawberry is that the New York Yankee organization has stood by this man's side time and time and time again and they're still by his side. And the reason I say that is that George Steinbrenner and the Yankees have always offered their help to Darryl as far as support and prayers, and also the opportunity that he could find a job and a position which was, we were working towards when this unfortunate relapse occurred.

But this is an important area to consider and I'll tell you later on why it is. In the middle, Your Honor, I've got treatment and medical, and this goes to the attempts of an individual who has, who tries treatment. February 3 of '90, Smithers Center for Alcohol Rehabilitation (ph) in New York. April 8, '94, Betty Ford Center. And then we go further down, Hanley Hagelton Center (ph) in West Palm Beach. And then Sobrinity (ph), May 1 of 2000 in Fort Lauderdale. And, of course, we found ourselves most recently at Health Care Connection.

Here's an individual that doesn't necessarily turn his back on treatment but rather goes to treatment but has not really had the sufficient type of treatment that we feel now that I think that we focused on that he needs. So it's not an individual that does not give the fight a good fight. He goes and he relapses and he comes back.

Medically, Your Honor, this is the most unique thing about Darryl Strawberry's case, and I'll be very brief and get into the testimony, which I think is the most important thing of our case. But medically if we look along this line here, and I believe I gave the court a small, a small enough, I think you've got it there, if not, I'll locate another one for you, a letter sized chart that, it goes, and it goes to the different surgeries that Darryl Strawberry had to go to and go through and fight back on. And it talks about June 25, '97 when he had the arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

But then most significantly, Your Honor, October 1 of '98, a very, very important date in the life of Darryl Strawberry and what's transpired here today, his diagnosis with colon cancer. And you're going to hear from Dr. Jonathan Lapute (ph) shortly, who's been more or less the captain of the ship. He's been working with Mr. Strawberry for two and a half years. And let me tell you something about Dr. Lapute.

I just finally met him. I've talked to him on the phone numerous times and I picked him up at the airport last night. He's one heck of a guy, judge. He's one heck of a guy because he's in this not for making money, but he's in here because he's got his heart and soul and the best interests of Darryl Strawberry at heart. And that's going to come across very, very clearly.

He is, by the way, Your Honor, the doctor you spoke to over the telephone concerning Darryl's cancer and the chemotherapy and its resulting effect. And he has some very new insight that just came up recently that I think he's going to share with the court and with the public at large as to why we're going to be asking the court not to send Darryl Strawberry to prison, because he needs treatment.

We're going to ask the court to send Darryl Strawberry to a more secure, a more structured environment such as Phoenix House in Ocala, Florida. But if we go through this area here dealing with the medical aspects of Darryl's life, you have the 10/1/98 diagnosis with colon cancer. You have the 10/3/98 surgery for colon cancer. And I believe they removed 14 to 16 inches of Mr. Strawberry's intestine. Then you have the 10/8/98, October 9, '98 medical observation that the cancer had spread and that chemotherapy was needed. And then we go into the January 9, '99, another surgery to remove the scar tissue that was caused by the cancer and its resulting operation.

And then, Your Honor, the most unfortunate thing of July 28, 2000, that the cancer has returned. And then on August the 7, 2000, not even a year ago -- think about that -- on August the 7th, 2000, the cancerous tumor and a kidney is removed from Darryl Strawberry. And Darryl Strawberry keeps making attempts to come back. And he's assured me, and last night me and Dr. Lapute sat there with him and his wife Charise and we wanted to know Darryl, we said, are you going to make an attempt to come back? Because if you're going to fight, we're going to fight. And he hugged me and he says he's going to fight and I believe he is going to fight, Your Honor.

And I'm going to be asking the court, I'm going to be on my hands and knees pleading with the court not for dramatics, but to say that this man really needs help and I feel that we have the components to give him the help. And I know before the judge, the court said that -- the court has always said that prison, in drug court, prison is the last alternative. And I'm very well -- I've got the notes there about what the court said in the transcript. But the court in the transcript realized the demons of addiction. The court realized that it's common to relapse in these type of situations and the court says that Mr. Strawberry, you're in your right, in the right place.

There's no other place I can send you. Well, judge, there is another place that we're going to be asking the court to send Mr. Strawberry, where he can get the treatment both for his chemical dependency, drug addiction and alcohol, also for his psychiatric problems and relating situations there, and also where he can get the proper cancer and chemotherapy. And that's going to be Phoenix House, Your Honor.

And let me tell you, Darryl Strawberry, the last five or six months, has not been, it's not no easy walk in the park being in Health Care. If people realize how many meetings you've got to go to every day and still he was able to remain clean for five months, which a lot of people may make light of that and say five months, big deal. But let me tell you, to a person like Darryl Strawberry, that's an accomplishment. And I'm here, Your Honor, to let you know that this is a good man and that he deserves every consideration that the court's going to give.

I know, judge, that your position is, it's a tough position to be in over here. But you know something? When you have tough positions, you go before tough judges and you go before judges that don't care what the media is going to be saying. And whatever the decision is, judge, and I really mean this, whatever the decision is, Mr. Strawberry and his family and I are going to say that's fine and we're going to make it no matter what the decision is.

But I just want to let the court know that we have total confidence in the court and we understand the position that the court's in.

Your Honor, at this time, with the court's permission, I would like to call Dr. Charles Walker (ph).

FOSTER: Dr. Walker, come on up.


KAGAN: We've been listening to the attorney for Darryl Strawberry before this judge in Tampa, Florida, pretty much begging for mercy for Darryl Strawberry, who just moments ago admitted that indeed, he did violate his probation on drug and prostitution charges. That would be the fourth time since 1999 he has done that.

Darryl Strawberry has been through quite a bit -- drug addiction, fighting colon cancer as well, the removal of his kidney. The state earlier said that they believe Darryl Strawberry belongs in state prison. Eighteen months they would like to see Darryl Strawberry in prison. His lawyer, you just heard, begging for mercy, saying that's not where he belongs, that a person with a drug addiction like Darryl Strawberry actually belongs back in drug rehab. We'll have more on this later in the morning.



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