Fallen baseball hero Pete Rose was sentenced today to five months in prison and fined $50,000 for cheating on his taxes.
"I have no excuses because it's all my fault," the former manager of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team said. "I lost my dignity, I lost my self respect . . . and I almost lost a lot of dear friends."
Rose was sentenced for failing to report more than $354,000 in income from baseball memorabilia sales, autograph appearances and the gambling for which he was banned for life from professional baseball.
U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel also ordered Rose to spend three months in a halfway house after the prison term and perform 1,000 hours of community service with inner-city youths. He could have sentenced Rose to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Spiegel repeatedly referred to Rose's standing as a baseball hero, but said he had to ignore Rose's fame in considering punishment.
"Today we are not dealing with the legend," he said.
The 49-year-old Rose blames his troubles on a gambling disorder, for which he is getting treatment. He first denied having a gambling problem when friends told investigators that he bet on Cincinnati Reds games while managing the team.
He still denies betting on baseball, but accepted a lifetime ban from the sport last August. He is eligible next month to apply for reinstatement to baseball, but has indicated that he will not do so.
Rose, limping from a knee injury, showed no visible reaction when he was sentenced. But earlier, his voice broke as he told the judge that he was sorry.
"Your honor, I'd like to say I'm very sorry, very shameful to be here today in front of you," Rose said.
His voice faltered again when he told the judge how his 5-year-old son had told his wife that "his daddy is a jailbird."
Spiegel allowed Rose to remain free until Aug. 10, so that he may have surgery on his injured knee. Then he is expected to report to a federal prison in Ashland, Ky.
Spiegel praised Rose's accomplishments on the baseball field, but said he had to impose a jail sentence out of fairness.
"Foremost, we must recognize that there are two people here: Pete Rose, the living legend, the all-time hit leader and the idol of millions; and Pete Rose, the individual who appears today convicted of two counts of cheating on his taxes," Spiegel said. "Today we are not dealing with the legend."
Rose's tax problems began to surface when baseball investigator John Dowd started looking into his betting habits in early 1989. A federal grand jury was convened in Cincinnati to see whether Rose reported all of his income.
Rose agreed to plead guilty April 20 to two counts of failing to report income. Federal prosecutors agreed not to pursue further charges.
Rose admitted he hid $354,968 in income from 1984 to 1987. He has repaid the Internal Revenue Service $366,042 as part of the plea agreement.
Two of Rose's reputed gambling associates, former roommate Thomas Gioiosa and bookmaker Ronald Peters, were sentenced last year on drug and tax charges. Peters received a two-year term. Gioiosa was sentenced to five years.