La Russa settles DUI case, is angry at himself

Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa pleaded guilty to a lesser charge to resolve misdemeanor drunken-driving charges stemming from his arrest nearly 10 months ago on a freeway in metro Phoenix.

The 76-year-old pleaded guilty to reckless driving Monday in Maricopa County Justice Court. La Russa was sentenced to one day of home detention and fined nearly $1,400, and he is required to complete 20 hours of community service.

La Russa was arrested on Feb. 24, but the charges were filed on Oct. 28 — one day before his hiring by Chicago.

In a conference call Monday, La Russa said, “The anguish that I have felt for nine months I will never forget.

“I brought this on myself. I know it. I feel deep remorse and regret over what I did. It’s impossible to explain how daily and deeply this gets at you and has bothered me for a long time. Obviously I displayed bad judgment that night in February. I’m grateful to the White Sox for standing by me.”

He said he was angry at himself, and his “goal is to prove.”

“Before, [it] was proving myself on the field. Now I have to prove myself off the field as well,” he said.

Lawrence Kazan, La Russa’s lawyer, said his client underwent alcohol counseling after his arrest.

“That shows Mr. La Russa is taking this matter very seriously, and it is also indicative of the remorse he feels for having gotten himself involved in this matter,” Kazan said.

La Russa said he has completed a 20-hour alcohol counseling course.

“I know I don’t have a drinking problem. Just like I know I made a serious mistake in February. And where I am right now is to prove I don’t have a drinking problem and to prove it every day off the field. What’s painfully clear to me is if I have a drink, I will not drive. There’s always an alternative,” he said.

Authorities say La Russa, who won a World Series with Oakland and two more with St. Louis, blew out a tire on the gray Lexus he was driving. He smashed into a curb, leaving the vehicle smoking. Tests taken the night of his arrest showed that his blood alcohol concentration was .095 — above the legal limit of .08.

La Russa pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep inside his running sport utility vehicle at a stoplight and smelling of alcohol.

La Russa was hired by Chicago in a surprise move after Rick Renteria was let go in what the team said was a mutual decision. La Russa last managed in the majors in 2011, with St. Louis.

“With today’s announcement, Tony La Russa accepted responsibility and has been held legally accountable for his poor behavior and the questionable choices he made last February. The White Sox understand the anger and concern expressed by some about hiring Tony under these circumstances,” the team said in a statement Monday.

“Tony has expressed to us his remorse, and he understands he brought this on himself. We understand that people make mistakes and exercise poor judgment in life. In this case, Tony is fortunate his decisions that night did not injure himself or anyone else. We also believe people deserve the opportunity, at all points in their lives, to improve.

“Tony knows there is no safety net below him. There cannot be a third strike. Tony has a proud and productive history with the White Sox and Major League Baseball, which is why we are standing by him. He has done his job exceptionally well in the past. He has always shown an ability to inspire his players and to bring his teams to a championship level. We are confident that Tony will improve our team while improving himself.”

ESPN’s Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.

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