Sentence for probation violation delayed

Updated: October 6, 2004, 10:34 PM ET
Associated Press

MARIETTA, Ga. -- Atlanta Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal was cleared Wednesday to play in the postseason despite a probation violation on a drunken-driving charge.

Rafael Furcal
Shortstop
Atlanta Braves
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R SB AVG
143 14 59 103 29 .279

The ruling came hours before the Braves opened their divisional playoff series with the Houston Astros. Furcal tripled in Atlanta's 9-3 loss.

Furcal must remain in home confinement for the rest of the season. He has to return to a hotel if on the road, Judge David Darden said.

Darden sentenced Furcal to 21 days in jail to be followed by a 28-day in-house treatment program. The judge delayed the start of the sentence until the day after the Braves' season ends.

The judge also ruled Furcal may not drink alcohol or participate in postgame celebrations. Most times, teams celebrate with champagne when they win postseason series.

Furcal also must blow into a portable breath-testing machine when called by a monitoring service affiliated with the probation department. The machine, hooked up to a cell phone and video camera, will relay the test results to officials.

"Don't take it lightly," Darden said. "The court is concerned a second violation might indicate he has a problem with judgment with regard to alcohol."

Furcal, 26, seemed surprised by the length of the sentence.

"That's a lot of days," he said during batting practice before Game 1. "It's bad for me. I've never been in jail that long."

But he was glad to have at least part of his legal problems resolved. Furcal still faces the drunken-driving charge, but his lawyers hope to reach a deal in which any possible jail time would be served at the same time as his sentence for the probation violation.

"I wanted to put it out of the way and get my mind better," Furcal said. "Now I can focus on my game."

Furcal was 1-for-3 in the Braves' 9-3 loss to Houston. He walked twice and scored a run.

In the field, Furcal double-pumped twice on relay throws from the outfield. He held the ball on one of the plays and followed through with a late throw on the other, possibly costing the Braves chances at plays at the plate.

Earlier, Furcal wore a warmup jacket with NBA star Allen Iverson's nickname on the back and appeared in court with a Spanish translator. A native of the Dominican Republic, he spoke little during the hearing, answering "yes" or nodding several times when the judge asked him if he understood the proceedings.

Furcal, the 2000 National League rookie of the year, batted .279 with 14 homers, 59 RBIs and 29 stolen bases this season.

He was arrested Sept. 10 and accused of driving under the influence, his second DUI arrest in four years. That arrest violated his probation in Cobb County for a June 2000 arrest on similar charges.

Solicitor Barry Morgan said the sentence reflected that Furcal had 49 days left on his probation. He was allowed to continue playing because he accepted responsibility.

"I think one of the positive examples is that he has admitted he has a problem," Morgan said.

Defense attorney William Head said Furcal has seen a counselor since his September arrest.

"Mr. Furcal is very interested in turning this bad situation into something positive down the road," Head said.

Asked if Furcal has a drinking problem, Braves president Terry McGuirk said, "We're not aware of that and we don't think there's such a problem. But we have to let the courts make their best judgments and be supportive of what they decide."

Head said one of the most important issues for Furcal was making sure the shortstop did not miss the postseason. If the Braves reach the World Series, they could be playing until Oct. 31.

Players traditionally celebrate championships with champagne in the clubhouse, but the judge ruled Furcal may not drink alcohol or participate in postgame celebrations.

The judge also ruled Furcal may not drive at least until after serving his sentence.

"It's been a rough experience," McGuirk said. "I think it's something he's learned from. It will help him never make this mistake again."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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