Ex-All-Star Pitcher Esteban Loaiza Denies Dealing Cocaine


By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (AP) — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who earned more than $43 million over 14 seasons, denied allegations Wednesday that he is a cocaine dealer.

Loaiza, who became a celebrity in his native Mexico, made his first appearance in San Diego County Superior Court in Chula Vista, California, since his arrest last week. The 46-year-old retired athlete did not speak in court but did look at his father and other family members before his defense attorney entered his not guilty plea.

Prosecutors charged Loaiza, 46, with possession and transportation for sale of more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cocaine, a cocaine base or heroin, and using a false compartment to smuggle drugs.

The specification of more than 10 kilograms could draw a stiffer penalty as could the allegation that the drugs were being stored at a townhome he leased that was within a 1,000 feet (305 meters) of an elementary school.

The baseball star would face up to 20 years and eight months in prison if convicted.

Loaiza has been behind bars since he was arrested Friday on suspicion of drug smuggling after San Diego County sheriff’s officers who pulled over the Mercedes Benz he was driving for a traffic violation found a “sophisticated” compartment used to hide contraband at the back of the vehicle, according to investigators.

He had crossed the Mexican border earlier that same day, prosecutors said.

Later, authorities obtained a search warrant for the home he rented in the community of Imperial Beach, where officials say packages were found containing a white powder believed to be cocaine and that weighed a total of 20 kilograms (44 pounds). The charges are for any amount over 10 kilograms, prosecutors said.

Bail was originally set at $200,000 but the judge Wednesday raised it to $250,000 after deputy district attorney Ryan Karkenny argued the Mexican pitcher poses a flight risk, saying he has lived on both sides of the border and has access to “significant funds.”

Defense attorney Janice Deaton agreed to the terms, though it was unclear if the ex-pitcher would post bail. Deaton as well as Loaiza’s relatives left the courtroom without speaking to reporters, and the attorney did…



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