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Puckett Facing Criminal Charges

From Associated Press

Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett was charged Friday in Minneapolis with dragging a woman into a restaurant bathroom last month and grabbing her breast.

The woman had bruises, and her ankle was swollen from hitting a door frame, according to the criminal complaint, which cited several witnesses.

The former Minnesota Twin star was charged with a felony count of false imprisonment and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal sexual conduct.

If convicted, the 41-year-old Puckett probably would be put on probation and given less than a year in the county workhouse, according to County Attorney Amy Klobuchar. She said it’s unlikely he would be sentenced to the legal maximum of four years in prison and $8,000 in fines.

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“The only reason Kirby Puckett was charged today is because he is a famous person,” said Chris Madel, one of Puckett’s attorneys. “If this were anybody else, this case would have never seen the light of day. We will meet and we will beat these allegations in court.”

Klobuchar strongly denied that Puckett is being treated differently from anyone else and said as far as she’s concerned, he was merely a guy in a bar who broke the law.

“I do think that it will be a challenging trial because many jurors will know Mr. Puckett,” she added. “In the end, we have faith that the Minnesota jury will be fair and base a decision on the facts and on the evidence, and not on who he is.”

Puckett was not present at a brief hearing Friday. He was summoned to report to the county jail for formal booking Monday. He won’t have to post the $20,000 bail prosecutors initially sought unless he fails to report. A date for his next hearing has not been set.

The charges are the latest blow to the image of a man who had been one of the state’s most respected sports figures.

Puckett’s wife, Tonya, filed for divorce in February, about two months after she told police he threatened to kill her during an argument. He denied making such a threat, and prosecutors didn’t charge him. The Pucketts reached a tentative settlement this month.

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Lou Piniella was given permission to talk to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who reached a deal Friday with the Seattle Mariners on compensation for the manager.

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The Mariners wouldn’t say what they would get if the Devil Rays hire Piniella.

“I’m not going to comment on any of the players who are involved in the transaction,” Mariner General Manager Pat Gillick said by phone in a conference call from Peoria, Ariz., where the team is holding organizational meetings.

“I will not comment on anything,” Gillick said when asked if there was money involved in the possible deal. “All I will say is Tampa Bay stepped up and they were very aggressive. They were the first out of the chute for Lou.”

Devil Ray General Manager Chuck LaMar also declined to discuss the compensation, citing a confidentiality clause in the agreement with the Mariners.

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LaMar spent much of Friday interviewing Oakland bench coach Ken Macha but conceded that gaining permission to talk to Piniella had pushed the Tampa native to the top of his wish list.

The Mariners agreed this week to release Piniella from the final year of his three-year contract. The team said it would allow him to negotiate with other teams, provided they could agree to appropriate compensation -- players, cash or some combination.

The manager has said he wants to work for a team closer to his home in Tampa.

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New York Yankee pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre decided to put off retirement and return for one more year.

Stottlemyre said in January that he would quit after this season. He was diagnosed with a form of bone marrow cancer in April 2000, and he underwent stem-cell transplant treatment.

“I had a change shortly after the All-Star break,” he said. “My well-being seemed better with each trip. I was able to handle it a great deal better in the second half.”


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