Joe Pepitone was a New York Yankee from 1962 to 1969. He was a 3-time All-Star with a consistent – if not consistently stellar – batting average. Roundly considered a preening slacker by management and the media, Pepitone was traded twice before ending his professional career in 1973.
On March 18, 1985, a car ran a red light in Brooklyn. Police found Pepitone in the passenger seat with a bag at his feet that contained his identification, cocaine, Quaaludes, a kit for free-basing, and detailed records of drug deals. In the back seat was Thomas Carbone, who owned the car and who was babysitting a 10-ounce bag of coke. Robert Oates was driving.
The case came to trial in August 1986. Thomas Carbone failed to appear and was tried in abstentia. Defense attorneys for Pepitone and Oates maintained police had framed their clients, and when the jury found Pepitone guilty only of the misdemeanor charges (possession of Quaaludes and possession of drug paraphernalia), Pepitone told reporters he was relieved, citing his lawyer’s confidence he’d get parole rather than jail time: “My wife I could have used the rest from,” Pepitone said, “but not my kids.”
Justice Richard Brown gave Pepitone 6 months at Riker’s Island instead. Pepitone’s lawyer opined that the judge conferred such a stiff penalty on a first-time offender simply because Pepitone was famous. Robert Oates was sentenced to 1 to 3 years for criminal possession of the loaded, unlicensed .22 tucked between the front seats. Thomas Carbone got 25 to life for felony drug sales.