NEW YORK (AP) -- George Steinbrenner fabricated the
attempted extortion case against Howard Spira, an admitted gambler, because he wanted to protect his position in baseball, Spira's lawyer said yesterday in closing arguments.
"He was creating a false story for the purpose of justifying his conduct at a prior time," David Greenfield told the jury in Manhattan's federal court.
But the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Kehoe, said Steinbrenner truly was a victim of Spira's threats to ruin his reputation.
"Howard Spira set a course to destroy George Steinbrenner and he did. . . . he set a course to ruin his name in the paper and he did," Kehoe said.
The jury of 10 men and two women deliberated the case about an hour after being instructed on the law by U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton. They are expected to resume deliberations this morning.
Steinbrenner agreed to give up control of the New York Yankees last summer because of his dealings with Spira.
The prosecutor urged the jury to disregard the fact that Steinbrenner was unpopular with baseball fans.
"It's not open season on people, even if you don't like them," Kehoe said. "Even if you don't like George Steinbrenner."
The case turns around a $40,000 payment Steinbrenner made to Spira in January 1990, about three years after they first met.