Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Britton faces up to a year in jail for DUI
By Gordon Edes
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Drake Britton faces an April 12 hearing in Lee County Court on multiple misdemeanor charges for allegedly driving under the influence, reckless driving and DUI with property damage stemming from an incident here March 2.
The most serious of the charges, DUI and damage to property, is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida and punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of $1,000 or both. A first-offense DUI is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500, while a reckless driving charge is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable on first conviction by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $500. In addition, Britton was charged with speeding and faces a $1,101 ticket on that charge, according to court records.
Britton was arrested, according to the report filed by the Lee County Sheriff's Office, at 4:42 a.m. March 2 on Ben Hill Griffin Parkway in Estero, which is adjacent to Fort Myers. According to the arrest report, Britton, driving a 2008 black Chevrolet Silverado, was paced at a maximum speed of 111 mph in a 45-mph zone. With a police car in pursuit, Britton's truck swerved between other moving vehicles and jumped over a curb, continuing down a small decline and knocking down a barbed-wire fence.
Britton then allegedly continued down a dirt road for a quarter mile and attempted to pull into a wooded area before coming to a stop. When the officer approached and asked for his license, police claim Britton first handed him his debit card.
According to the arresting officer, Britton's breath smelled of alcohol and he had slurred speech and bloodshot, watery eyes. Britton refused a breath test, but the officer said he admitted he had been drinking. He was taken to Lee County jail.
Bond was posted that day, and Britton made a mandatory court appearance on March 5. Six days later, pleas of not guilty were entered by his attorney, Peter Duncan Ringsmuth, and the hearing was set.
A 23rd-round draft choice in 2007 out of Tomball (Texas) High School, Britton underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in 2008, bounced back to rank No. 3 on Baseball America's top prospects list for the Red Sox in 2010, struggled in 2011 but finished strong last season for Double-A Portland and was rated No. 11 on the BA list this year.
Britton, 23, was attending his first big league camp and was scheduled to pitch in an exhibition game for the Red Sox the day after he was arrested. That appearance was scratched, and on March 4 the Red Sox announced he had been optioned to Double-A Portland, before Britton's arrest had been reported.
The next day, the team issued a statement. "This is a matter that the Red Sox take very seriously, and it is being addressed," with the team adding it would have no further comment.
On Tuesday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington wrote in an e-mail that Britton is a full participant in the minor league camp.
It was a year ago this week that two players, Red Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks and Tampa Bay minor-leaguer Matt Bush, were arrested on multiple DUI charges in southwest Florida. Bush’s case was the most serious of the two; On March 22, 2012, he was involved in a DUI hit-and-run accident in which the SUV that he was driving struck a 72-year-old motorcyclist in Port Charlotte, Fla., causing brain hemorrhaging and multiple fractures, among other injuries. The DUI conviction was the third for Bush, a former No. 1 draft pick of the San Diego Padres who pleaded no contest and was sentenced to four years and three months in prison. He is currently serving his sentence in a state facility in Jasper, in the Florida panhandle.
Jenks, who was in the second year of a two-year, $12 million contract he had signed with the Red Sox as a free agent, was rehabbing from multiple back surgeries when he was arrested on March 23 on DUI charges, reckless driving and DUI with property damage, stemming from an incident in which he allegedly struck parked vehicles while leaving a strip club. Jenks said he had become disoriented from the use of muscle relaxers and the DUI charges were subsequently dropped, according to media reports. In July, the Red Sox reached a termination agreement with Jenks on his contract.