Spira found guilty on 8 counts Extortion trial had Steinbrenner links

May 09, 1991|By Murray Chass | Murray Chass,New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Howard Spira, a 32-year-old Bronx man who New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner says "ruined my life," had his own life jolted yesterday when a federal jury convicted him of attempting to extort money from Steinbrenner.

Spira was convicted on five of six charges involving Steinbrenner and on three of the other four charges against him.

The outcome of the four-week trial is expected to lead to a renewed effort by Steinbrenner to challenge the investigation of him last year by baseball commissioner Fay Vincent.

The verdict, however, will have no bearing on Steinbrenner's position in baseball, since the government had made clear that its case was separate from Vincent's investigation of the Steinbrenner-Spira relationship.

By agreement with the commissioner last summer, Steinbrenner was removed as managing partner of the Yankees because of his three-year association with Spira and his $40,000 payment to him in January 1990.

Although Steinbrenner has contended the payment was extorted, the government case against Spira neither made that claim nor dealt with that episode in the Steinbrenner-Spira relationship.

The government accused Spira of trying to extort an additional $110,000 from Steinbrenner after the $40,000 payment.

In a statement issued after the verdict, Richard Levin, a spokesman for Vincent, said, "The federal case against Mr. Spira, as the commissioner has said many times, has no relationship at all to any baseball matter, including Mr. Steinbrenner's status as it pertains to his agreement with the commissioner."

A statement issued for Steinbrenner by his spokesman, Steve Mangione, did not address the baseball matter.

"Naturally, I am pleased with the verdict and I thank all of those people who believed in me and my family," Steinbrenner said.

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