Former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra received a six and a half-month prison sentence for looting valuables worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from his mansion after he had filed for bankruptcy.
Dykstra, 49, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson in Los Angeles. The former Major League Baseball player is already serving a three-year California state prison term for grand theft auto and a nine-month term for lewd conduct and assault with a deadly weapon.
“I’m trying to understand who is Mr. Dykstra,” Pregerson said. “There’s a spectrum of conduct that’s hard for me to understand.”
Dykstra’s federal public defender, Hilary Potashner, told the judge that drug and alcohol abuse were behind Dykstra’s string of criminal conduct in the past few years, including the bankruptcy fraud, his efforts to lease cars with false business information and attempts to have sex with women who responded to an ad for a personal assistant.
His drug addiction dated back to his days as a baseball player when, after many injuries, he had to take painkillers to “make it through the day,” Potashner said. His financial difficulties tripped him up in the mid-to-late 2000s, the lawyer told the judge.
“He didn’t act like Lenny Dykstra,” Potashner said. “He was a different person. He was making erratic, Id-driven decisions.”
Dykstra had been “beaten to a pulp” in state custody and had his front teeth knocked out because of his celebrity status, the lawyer said.
Dykstra, dressed in a white prison jumpsuit, made a short statement apologizing to the government and his family.
“I don’t think I’m a bad person,” Dykstra said. “I’m looking forward to a new start.”
The judge said he decided to err on the side of a short prison term and ordered Dykstra to perform 500 hours of community service. The former baseball player won’t serve the entire three years of his state prison term and is likely to be released sometime next year.
Federal prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Dykstra to 2 1/2 years in prison, saying he had been “trading on his celebrity status” and acted as if he was above the law.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Davis said after the hearing that the sentence is “less than what the government requested.”
“It’s the judge’s job to make that decision,” he said.
In July, Dykstra pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy property and money laundering. The government alleged that after he filed for bankruptcy in 2009, he stripped as much as $400,000 in valuables and fixtures from the $18.5 million mansion north of Los Angeles he had bought two years earlier from Hall of Fame hockey player Wayne Gretzky.
According to the government’s sentencing recommendation, Dykstra, who had won the World Series with the Mets in 1986, went through a cycle of poor business decisions and substance abuse after his retirement from baseball that eventually left him broke and imprisoned.
The Southern California native sold a profitable car wash business in 2007 when he bought the mansion just as the real estate market started its decline, prosecutors said. A plan to turn the mansion in a time-share went nowhere as did Dykstra’s Players Club magazine, prosecutors said.
As his finances deteriorated, Dykstra’s substance abuse increased, according to the government. Dykstra drank a liter of vodka a day at times and took prescription painkillers including Percocet, according to the government. When police searched his home in 2011, they found cocaine, Ecstasy and human growth hormone, Los Angeles authorities said at the time.
In April, Dykstra pleaded no contest to charges he told women who came to meet him in response to ads he placed on Craigslist for personal assistants and housekeepers that the job also required giving him massages.
In one case, Dykstra removed the door handle to trap a woman in his room and began masturbating, suggesting that the job of personal assistant included performing sexual acts on him, according to the government’s sentencing memorandum.
In the federal bankruptcy fraud case, prosecutors said the losses to his creditors were difficult to determine, such as the market value of a used $50,000 stove Dykstra took from his mansion and sold “out of the back of a truck for a few thousand dollars.” They also accused him of illegally selling baseball memorabilia that should have been part of the bankruptcy estate.
In his 2009 Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filing, Dykstra said he had $37.1 million in debts. The case was converted to Chapter 7 liquidation later that year.
Dykstra, known as “Nails,” joined the Mets in 1985 and helped the team win the World Series the following year. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1989 to 1996.
The outfielder finished second to Barry Bonds in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting in 1993, when the Phillies reached the World Series to face the Toronto Blue Jays. Dykstra had a career batting average of .285, with 81 home runs and 404 runs batted in, according to baseball-reference.com.
The case is U.S. v. Dykstra, 11-00415, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
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