TAMPA, Fla. – The judge who will decide how to punish Darryl Strawberry for violating his probation a fifth time has a history of leniency in drug cases.
The former New York Yankees' slugger asked Judge Florence Foster on Friday to give him another chance when she sentences him May 17. She could send him to prison for a four-day drug binge last month or send him to another treatment center.
The binge was the latest in a series of violations of the terms of his release on a 1999 conviction for drug possession and solicitation of prostitution.
Prosecutors argue that Strawberry, fighting colon cancer along with his drug addiction, does not deserve another chance at freedom.
Foster, however, has said prison is the last resort for those who come before her and that she's willing to give addicts a chance to recover.
"I'm there to do the right thing, and if I do the wrong thing, I will find out real fast," Foster told the St. Petersburg Times. "People are very punitive until someone in their family has these problems."
Even so, after three or four violations Foster can get tough. When Strawberry was before her in November for violating his probation, she warned him to resume his treatment for cancer "or you are history."
"If you can't make it on the outside, I'll find a place where you can get treatment on the inside," she said.
But if she decides later this month not to send him to prison it won't be unusual, and that has put her at odds with some prosecutors.
"Does she have that presence about her? That intimidating presence? No," said Rick Terrana, a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa. "I think that may lend itself to a false perception that she is weak."
When Foster was elected to Hillsborough Circuit Court in 1990, she ran into controversy immediately.
She was reassigned from the juvenile division after newspaper articles questioned her decisions. At her new assignment as a family law judge, a group called Mothers Against Judicial Incompetence formed to try to have her removed from the bench, saying she was biased in favor of men in divorce and custody cases.
She moved to drug court in January 2000, attending judicial seminars that taught her how drugs can change people.
"You know that little voice in you that says, 'I shouldn't, I shouldn't?"' Foster told a defendant in April. "Listen to that voice. I haven't given up on you."
In another case, prosecutors asked her to send a defendant, Isaak Green, to prison for a year.
"Mr. Green, this is your lucky day," Foster said, before giving him probation and warning him to stay off drugs. "Cocaine has a loud voice, and it's been talking to you in your ear."