Sports in the courts
Mayfield suggests NASCAR is conspiring with prosecutors
Former race car driver Jeremy Mayfield said Tuesday that the new criminal charges against him are "baseless" and suggested he's the target of a conspiracy involving NASCAR and law enforcement. Indictments by a North Carolina grand jury released Monday charged the Owensboro native with three counts of possessing property stolen from businesses and one count of obtaining property by false pretense. The charges follow a November raid on Mayfield's Catawba, N.C., home after which the former NASCAR star was charged with possessing 1.5 grams of methamphetamine. Mayfield, 42, has issued a statement through his attorneys saying he is innocent.
"For some reason, the district attorney's office simply ignored our offers to explain the sources of the items seized from my property and chose, instead, to indict," Mayfield said, according to the statement. "We do not know if there is any connection between the NASCAR lawsuit and this investigation but, based upon the evidence disclosed to us already by the district attorney's office, it appears that the Catawba County authorities have been coordinating with NASCAR officials."
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Mayfield was suspended from NASCAR after failing a random drug test at Richmond International Raceway in May 2009. He was in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond last month to argue that his lawsuit seeking reinstatement as a NASCAR driver should be heard by the courts. A lower-court judge dismissed Mayfield's suit in 2010 because he had twice — as a driver and an owner — signed documents in order to race that waived his right to sue.
The latest criminal indictment accuses Mayfield of possessing goods stolen from three companies, including a sofa, love seat, and other furniture from DEA Ventures Inc., and more than $1,000 worth of personal property belonging to Red Bull Racing Inc. Since his suspension, Mayfield has faced judgments in excess of $2 million for failing to pay bills and owes another $109,000 in property taxes. Mayfield also faces foreclosure on his 388-acre property.
Ex-Fiesta Bowl chief pleads guilty
The Fiesta Bowl's former top executive pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge to settle allegations stemming from a political-donations scandal. John Junker entered the plea in Phoenix for his role in soliciting political contributions from Fiesta Bowl employees. The bowl reimbursed employees for about $48,000 over nine years. The plea is part of an agreement with Arizona prosecutors in a scandal that led to the firing last year of Junker and the resignation of the bowl's chief operating officer, Natalie Wisneski.
Panel proposes moving kickoffs to 35
The NCAA rules committee for football has proposed moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35 and to limit the running start by players on the kicking team to 5 yards as a way of keeping players safer. The NCAA said Tuesday its injury data indicates that injuries during kickoffs occur more often than in other phases of the game. The committee also proposed a rule that would require a player who loses his helmet during a play to stop participating and leave the game for one play, and it proposed changes to rules regarding blocking below the waist and blocking on punt returns.
Curry's Georgia St. eyes move to FBS
Georgia State is studying a possible move to the Football Bowl Subdivision, just two seasons after launching its program under former Kentucky coach Bill Curry. The Panthers compete in the Football Championship Subdivision as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. Athletics Director Cheryl Levick said Tuesday that the school hadn't received an invitation from any conference and that no decision had been made on moving up.
UAB hires Jeff Brohm as coordinator
Former Louisville quarterback and assistant Jeff Brohm has been hired as offensive coordinator at Alabama-Birmingham, Coach Garrick McGee said Tuesday. Brohm, a former Trinity star who was Kentucky's Mr. Football in 1988, was hired last month to coach the Blazers' quarterbacks. He replaces Joe Gilbert, who left two weeks ago to become an assistant coach for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.
Cubs send reliever to Sox for Epstein
The Cubs and the Red Sox announced a deal Tuesday that settles their dispute over what Boston should get after executive Theo Epstein left for Chicago. The Cubs are sending right-handed reliever Chris Carpenter and a player to be named later to the Red Sox for a player to be named. Epstein became Chicago's president of baseball operations and got a five-year, $18.5 million deal in October. The teams were not able to agree on compensation and submitted arguments to Commissioner Bud Selig. But Epstein said the two teams settled things themselves. The 26-year-old Carpenter was a third-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2008.
MLB counters Maddon's trick with rule
A season after Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon put outfielder Sam Fuld on the mound to warm up just to give a reliever extra time in the bullpen, MLB has closed the loophole. Official Baseball Rule 3.05 was changed to "prohibit a manager from sending his current pitcher out to warm up with no intention of having him pitch because a relief pitcher is not ready to enter the game."
■ Seattle Manager Eric Wedge said Tuesday he will begin the season with Chone Figgins batting leadoff and move Ichiro Suzuki to third in the Mariners batting order. It will be the first time in his career that Suzuki will not bat leadoff on a regular basis, coming off the worst year of his career in America.
Brits relax whip rules for jockeys
The whip rules in British horse racing have been relaxed slightly after an outcry from jockeys over harsh punishments. The British Horse-racing Authority said Tuesday the new regulations add more "discretion and common sense" to the rule book. Starting Thursday, jockeys no longer will be given automatic penalties for using the whip eight times in flat races and nine over jump races. Stewards will instead review the ride in question before deciding whether a penalty is warranted.
Irving leads Cavs' 17-point comeback
Antawn Jamison scored 32 points, and rookie Kyrie Irving led Cleveland's comeback from a 17-point deficit with 17 points in the fourth quarter as the host Cavaliers beat Detroit 101-100 Tuesday night. Alonzo Gee, who scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, put the Cavaliers ahead for good, 97-95, by rebounding his own miss with a dunk with 25.4 seconds left. Irving, who scored 25 points, and Gee combined for 30 of Cleveland's 35 points in the fourth quarter. Former Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight led the Pistons with 24.
■ Dwyane Wade scored 30 points and added 10 assists, Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh each scored 20, and the Heat stretched their winning streak to seven with a 120-108 win over visiting Sacramento.
■ Roy Hibbert had a career-high 30 points and 13 rebounds to lead host Indiana to a 117-108 overtime win over New Orleans.
■ Joe Johnson, the Hawks' All-Star guard, returned to Atlanta Tuesday for an MRI on his left knee and will miss at least two games, another blow to a team already missing star center Al Horford.
The last word
Former St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa was vague Tuesday when talking about what position with MLB he might take, saying he's "not sure how official the commissioner wants to make it." But he had a clear message for Tigers Manager Jim Leyland during his visit to Detroit's spring training site in Lakeland, Fla. He told Leyland, who coached under La Russa with the White Sox in the '80s, that he should stop smoking and start eating tofu. To which Leyland replied:
"I didn't start smoking until I started coaching for him."