Via the Sun Sentinel:
He may have been driving drunk when he struck and killed a woman in a car crash nearly three years ago, but Jim Leyritz wasn’t responsible for her death, a jury ruled Saturday.
The former Yankee baseball player burst into tears upon hearing the verdict, then into smiles of elation upon being convicted of simple DUI charge rather than the more serious charge of DUI manslaughter.
He faced a sentence of up to 15 years had he been convicted of the more serious charge. Now, the first-time offender faces a maximum sentence of six months on the misdemeanor conviction.
“There’s no winners in this case. It was a tragic situation,” Leyritz said after the verdict. “All I’m glad about is that I’m going home to my kids.”
The verdict capped a nearly four-week trial in which the 46-year-old Davie man was accused of drunken driving and running a red light around 3 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2007, when he slammed his Ford Expedition into a Mitsubishi Montero being driven by Fredia Veitch, 30, a Plantation mother of two.
Leyritz had been celebrating his birthday and was traveling north on Southwest Seventh Avenue in downtown Fort Lauderdale when he collided with Veitch, a bartender on her way home. She was traveling west on Second Street.
After nearly seven hours of deliberations over three days, a jury of five men and one woman concluded the ex-Major Leaguer couldn’t have caused the wreck.
“Manslaughter was never an option,” jury foreman Brian Haul said. “There was no way the prosecution could prove he ran the red light. I feel comfortable this jury reached the decision it should have.”
Bruce Barger, a passenger in Leyritz’ car, initially told police the light was red and he tried to warn Leyritz, who was looking down as if he dropped something. On the witness stand, however, Barger said he didn’t recall the light turning red.
In a painstaking and often technical defense, attorney David Bogenschutz cast doubt on the reliability of the blood sample used to test Leyritz’ alcohol level. He also argued that Veitch had been speeding, police miscalculated the time of the accident, and a concussion had slowed the alcohol absorption rate in Leyritz’s stomach so he wasn’t impaired during the moment of the crash.
Bogenschutz said the state never offered a plea deal, leaving no choice but to go to trial. “Had it been a DUI (charge) in the first place we could have worked this out,” he said.
Assistant State Attorney Stefanie Newman acknowledged proof of Leyritz’ guilt was a hard sell to jurors. “It was a tough case going in,” she said. “We knew we had an uphill climb. The jury has spoken and we respect their verdict.”
Veitch’s husband Jordan, however, condemned the verdict. “I don’t think he got what he deserved,” he said, before leaving the courtroom.
Does this mean O.J. goes yard tomorrow?