A jury in Florida on Saturday acquitted former major league baseball player Jim Leyritz of DUI manslaughter in a 2007 crash that killed a mother of two.
However, Leyritz was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Leyritz had faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the manslaughter charge.
Testimony was inconclusive on whether Leyritz ran a red light on Dec. 28, 2007, when he collided with a vehicle driven by 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch, who died.
Defense experts testified that Leyritz may have been below Florida’s 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level when the crash occurred, even though it was 0.14 percent three hours later.
Leyritz played 11 major league seasons, hitting a memorable World Series home run for the New York Yankees in 1996.
The crash happened after Leyritz had been out at local nightspots celebrating his birthday. Veitch, who had gone out to other bars after work, was also drunk with a blood-alcohol level twice Florida’s limit, according to trial testimony.
Two witnesses testified that Veitch had the green light at an intersection before Leyritz’s Ford Expedition hit her vehicle, causing a rollover crash that ejected her onto the pavement. But under cross-examination, those same witnesses were less definitive about whether Leyritz’s light was red or yellow.
Defense expert witnesses also said Veitch’s lights may have been off and that Leyritz did not appear to be speeding. They also raised questions about the reliability of Leyritz’s blood tests and suggested he may have suffered a slight concussion that caused his body to absorb alcohol more slowly.
Prosecutors insisted that Leyritz was too drunk to react to the traffic light or avoid the collision with Veitch’s Mitsubishi Montero. They said he consumed the equivalent of between 11 and 12 shots of liquor in the three hours before the crash, which happened around 3 a.m.
Florida law provides for a DUI manslaughter conviction when a person’s actions either caused or contributed to the cause of someone else’s death.
In May, Leyritz settled a wrongful death lawsuit by agreeing to pay Veitch’s family $350,000 in insurance and personal funds.
Leyritz’s famous homer for the Yankees tied Game 4 of the World Series against Atlanta, a game New York would go on to win in extra innings. The victory paved the way for New York’s 1996 title, its first in 18 years.
Primarily a catcher, Leyritz also played for the Angels, Rangers, Red Sox, Padres and Dodgers. He had a career batting average of .264 and hit 90 home runs.