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Mass. Jury Acquits Mo Vaughn

March 4, 1998 GMT

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) _ Boston Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn was found innocent Tuesday of drunken driving after a two-day trial that damaged his reputation but let him walk away a free man.

Vaughn showed no emotion while the jury’s verdict was read, then left the courtroom while bailiffs congratulated him, shook his hand and patted him on the back.

``I am relieved by today’s innocent verdict and have learned a valuable lesson from this incident,″ Vaughn, 30, said in a statement released Tuesday night. ``I am anxious to return to Florida to be with my teammates and to contribute to the team’s success this year.″


``The case is over and done with,″ Kevin Reddington, Vaughn’s lawyer, told reporters on the courthouse steps as Vaughn’s limousine circled, waiting for the attorney to finish. ``We ought to get on with the baseball games.″

Vaughn was arrested early in the morning of Jan. 9 when, returning from a Providence, R.I., strip club, he crashed into a car parked beside the highway and rolled his pickup truck.

Police testified that he stumbled on eight sobriety tests; on his third try at reciting the alphabet, he said ``A-B-D-C-H-L-M.″ But Reddington said the tests were invalid because Vaughn could have been sleepy, dazed by the accident or unstable because he had put on weight in the offseason.

Reddington succeeded in making the trial a question of where the disabled Ford Escort was parked before Vaughn, straddling the solid white line at the edge of the traveling lanes, rear-ended it.

Calling the case an ``abomination,″ Reddington claimed the police arrested Vaughn to cover up their negligence by not removing the car in the 13 hours between the time it was stranded and the time Vaughn hit it.

Prosecutor Elaina Quinn left the courthouse without commenting. But her boss, Norfolk County District Attorney Jeffrey Locke, said he was not disappointed by the verdict.

``The jury spent some three hours deliberating on two days of testimony. It demonstrated that they gave it considerable thought and deliberation, and that’s the best we can hope for,″ he said. ``Our mission is not about seeking convictions ... it’s about making sure justice is done.″

Vaughn was fined $100 for driving outside marked lanes, but the jury spared him a likely 45-day driver’s license suspension if he had been convicted of the more serious charge. His license had already been suspended for six months when he refused to take a breathalyzer test, but Reddington said he would apply to have it reinstated.

``He does express great relief,″ said Reddington, who had complained that prosecutors introduced testimony about Vaughn at the strip club to embarrass him when their case faltered. ``I think it’s pretty obvious that he’d rather be in Florida practicing and knocking balls out of the park.″

Reddington said Vaughn was spending Tuesday night with his family. He was expected to return Wednesday to Florida, where the Red Sox are preparing for the upcoming season.

``We’re happy that the trial’s resolved and the issue will not be lingering over Mo Vaughn or the ballclub,″ general manager Dan Duquette said in Fort Myers, Fla., during the team’s exhibition game Tuesday night.

Vaughn’s lawyers had argued that the first baseman’s bad left knee, injured last season while sliding into home plate, might have contributed to his failure of eight sobriety tests. But prosecutors played videotape of Vaughn playing for the Red Sox to dispute he contention that he was hobbled.

``Just for the jury’s sake,″ Quinn said, ``Mr. Vaughn is No. 42.″

Otherwise, there was little acknowledgment that the defendant was more famous than usual. The jury paid him little notice, and only a handful of fans milled around the courthouse before the satellite trucks and camera tripods outside began to attract attention.

At one point, Quinn asked an accident reconstruction expert called by the defense whether Vaughn _ an acclaimed athlete _ would have been able to avoid the car if he hadn’t had been drinking.

The engineer, Wilson Dobson, disagreed.

``You take him out of a ballfield and put him in a car,″ he said, ``and he’s no more trained than the rest of us.″