Former New York Yankee first baseman Joe Pepitone was convicted Wednesday of minor drug charges but was cleared of major drug and weapons counts that could have meant a life prison sentence.
Pepitone, 45, raised his hand in jubilation as the verdict was read in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., then collapsed to one knee and sobbed before slumping into a chair.
A 12-person jury deliberated two days before finding Pepitone guilty of two minor counts--seventh-degree drug possession and second-degree possession of drug paraphernalia.
Pepitone, who was accused with two other men of running a drug distribution business, was found innocent of possessing more than four ounces of cocaine--a charge that could have meant a minimum prison sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of 25 years to life.
He also was cleared of a weapons possession charge.
One of Pepitone's co-defendants, Robert Oates, 47, was convicted of the same two counts and also found guilty of gun possession.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the third defendant, Thomas Carbone, 52, who is a fugitive and was tried in absentia.
Pepitone, who retired in 1973 after a 12-year career that also included stops with the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, was arrested in March of 1985 along with Oates and Carbone when their car was stopped by police in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn for running a red light.
Police said the car contained more than nine ounces of cocaine worth $70,000.