Baseball fans in Maryland and around the country may remember Esteban Loaiza starting the All Star Game for the American League in 2003. The right-handed pitcher lost only nine games that season while winning 21, but he made headlines of a very different sort on Feb. 9 when he was taken into custody on drug trafficking charges by police in California. A representative of the San Diego Sheriff's Department said that Loaiza was detained after deputies discovered 44 pounds of a white powder believed to be cocaine during a search of his Imperial Beach residence.
According to reports, deputies pulled over Loaiza's Mercedes-Benz sedan for an alleged traffic violation after observing him crossing the U.S.-Mexico border earlier in the day. A search warrant was obtained for the 46-year-old former pitcher's rented home after a sophisticated hidden compartment was allegedly found in the car. Loaiza was reportedly unable to raise the $200,000 he would need to post bail. Prosecutors argued during a Feb. 14 arraignment hearing that Loaiza's ties to Mexico made him a flight risk, and a San Diego County Superior Court subsequently raised the bail amount to $250,000.
The pitcher could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted on all charges. He faces an enhanced sentence because the home where the drugs were allegedly found is located less than 1,000 feet from a school.
Individuals who face serious drug charges sometimes feel that they have little hope of lenient treatment, but persecutors often enter into negotiated plea agreements even when their cases are compelling. Experienced criminal defense attorneys could point out that jury trials are both expensive and unpredictable, and they may urge prosecutors to reduce drug trafficking charges and forgo mandatory minimum sentences in return for a guilty plea and a swift resolution.
Source: ABC News, "Ex-All Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested on drug charges", Julie Watson, Feb. 12, 2018
Source: Fox, "Ex-All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza denies dealing cocaine", Associated Press report, Feb. 14, 2018