Leyritz DUI Manslaughter Trial Begins

Testimony begins in former Yankee World Series hero's case

The DUI manslaughter trial of former Yankee Jim Leyritz started Monday, as prosecutors began to outline their case against the 1996 World Series hero in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom.

Leyritz, 46, faces a maximum of 15 years behind bars in the December 2007 death of 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch. The former major leaguer had been celebrating his 44th birthday with friends on Fort Lauderdale beach when his SUV collided with Veitch's car around 3 a.m. after Leyritz allegedly ran a red light.

Prosecutors Monday said Leyritz's blood-alcohol content was 0.18, nearly  twice the legal limit, when the crash occurred. Leyritz tested 0.14 and 0.13 when tested about three and four hours after the crash, according to police. Veitch had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18, authorities said. The legal limit in Florida is 0.08.

According to prosecutor Stefanie Newman, a vitamin water bottle found in Leyritz's car tested positive for alcohol, and that when Leyritz was asked to perform a field sobriety test, which was captured on a police car camera, he had difficulties.

"Pay close attention to that video: what you will see is a man who is being given instructions and can't follow those instructions," Newman told jurors.

Leyritz has pleaded not guilty. The trial is expected to take about a month and involve testimony from as many as 44 witnesses. Leyritz's attorney, David Bogenschutz described his defense strategy as "We're going with 'prove it.'"

The state's first witness was Fort Lauderdale police Detective Orlando Almanzar, who responded to the scene the night of the crash. Almanzar said Leyritz had bloodshot eyes and a "slight" odor of alcohol on his breath.

But when questioned by Bogenschutz, Almanzar admitted Leyritz did OK in the test.

"He didn't appear like other people you have arrested, did he?" Bogenschutz asked.

"He was talking OK," Almanzar said.

"No slurring words, no stumbling?" asked Bogenschutz.

"No," the detective said.

In May, Leyritz settled a wrongful death civil case with Veitch's family, agreeing to pay $350,000 to her husband and two children. According to the settlement, Leyritz's insurance company will pay $250,000 and the former baseball player will pay the Veitch family $1,000 every month for the next 100 months.

Leyritz spent 10 years in Major League Baseball with the Yankees, Anaheim Angels, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. His hallmark moment came in 1996, when he hit a 3-run home run against the Atlanta Braves in game 4 of the World Series.

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