FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) -A tearful Jim Leyritz hugged two of his sons after a Broward County Judge sentenced him to probation rather than sending the former major league baseball player to jail for driving drunk on the night he was involved in a deadly accident.
Judge Marc Gold also fined Leyritz, a former World Series hero for the New York Yankees, and ordered him to complete 50 hours of community service. Leyritz could have faced 6 months in jail for the misdemeanor DUI conviction.
"I'm relieved that I'll be able to go home to my kids," Leyritz said.
Leyritz was originally charged with killing Fredia Veitch, a mother of two, in the deadly crash on December 28, 2007. But jurors disagreed and convicted Leyritz of the lesser charge of DUI.
Jurors said they considered numerous factors -- like the fact that Veitch had been drinking and was not wearing a seat belt. There was also debate over whether Leyritz ran a red light that caused the crash.
Regardless of the outcome, Leyritz told the judge Thursday that his life and the lives of Veitch's family will never be the same.
"On that night in 2007 your honor, changed lives. Not just my life not just the Veitch family life but your honor the life of five children If I could change that, I would," Leyritz said, choking back tears.
Veitch's husband Jordan attended the sentencing and made an impassioned statement. He admitted his wife was drinking and believes that if she had survived she also would have bee charged with driving under the influence.
"She did not have an opportunity to be judged," Veitch said. "She paid with her life. Please remember her the next time you are faced with the decision to drive home after a few drinks or call a cab. It should make the decision an easy one."
Veitch said at least Leyritz will be able to go home and hug his children. Veitch left the courthouse without commenting to reporters on the sentence Leyritz received. In the days after the verdict, he told CBS 4 News, "I wasn't happy with this decision," Veitch told CBS4's Peter D'Oench. "I don't think he meant to kill my wife in any way, shape or form. But if he gets the maximum of six months, and I don't know what he will when he is sentenced on December 2nd, what is that for the loss of a life? He was drinking."
Leyritz did have a large group supporting him including two of the jurors who decided the case. He hugged them after the judge announced the sentence of probation. Juror Sharon Wessinger was pleased with the sentence.
"I thought it was phenomenal," she said. "That was something i was hoping for all along."
Leyritz's lawyer, David Bogenschutz, said the sentencing was fair.
"It's what you would normally got on a first DUI with no other aggravating factors," Bogenschutz said.
Leyritz settled a civil lawsuit with Veitch's family. The Veitch family received a $250,000 settlement from Leyritz's insurer and Leyritz will pay the family $100,000 over the next few years.
Leyritz told the judge he plans to create a charity to assist children whose parents have died. He also said he's writing a book about his life experiences.
"From this day on, all I ask is that we walk out of these doors today and we move forward and we make a difference in people's lives and that's what I plan on doing," Leyritz said.
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