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DATE News (chronologically)
03/24/09
irl
Castroneves trial resumes
Soon Castroneves will either be dancing with the stars again, or dancing behind bars
At 7:40 a.m. on a damp weekday morning, Helio Castroneves and his sister Katiucia sat together on a bench outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse downtown, just the two of them. Kati quietly checked her phone for e-mails while Helio, never one to sit still, jumped to his feet and launched into stretching exercises to try to burn off some nervous energy.

Three weeks earlier this same municipal courtyard was the sight of a small media circus, a waiting mob that included television stations from Miami, Indianapolis and South America, newspaper reporters, sports writers, even "Entertainment Tonight" and TMZ. They came to watch the two-time Indy 500 winner and "Dancing with the Stars" champion make the walk of shame up the sidewalk to face charges by the IRS that he had failed to report and pay taxes on more than $5 million.

But now, little more than a week away from being handed their fate by a jury of their peers, the racer and his sister/co-defendant sat together in the misty morning rain, totally alone.

"It is like being on an airplane," the 33-year-old Brazilian said as the members of their eight-person legal defense team began to arrive. "There are moments when you climb, moments when you dive and moments of turbulence. It has not been a fun flight."

Then, as he turned to enter the building, Castroneves paused and dug deep for one of his trademark smiles.

"The good news is that this plane will be landing soon."

On Monday morning the trial resumed its fourth week following a four-day break. The prosecution expects to rest their case by midweek, and most involved anticipate the case to be in the hands of the jury as early as Friday.

Though it might not rate high on the sexiness meter, the impact of a guilty verdict would be felt throughout the sports world. And not just in the IndyCar and NASCAR garages, where a scramble would no doubt ensue to fill one of the most sought-after rides in all of motorsports. The absence of Alan Miller would create a chasm on at least one side of literally every boardroom negotiation within the sport, and in some instances, on both sides.

Even a declaration of innocence likely won't be enough to remove the stain from the reputations of Miller and his clients. The close-knit, sometimes high school-ish racing community is a forgiving place, but only so much.

In the meantime, Helio Castroneves and his sister will continue making their lonely 15-minute drive every morning, from the racer's mansion in Coral Gables to the courthouse on North Miami Avenue, the same sparkling new tower where the U.S. government tries the most notorious drug dealers in the world. The pair has no idea if the media circus will roll back into the courtyard to greet them when that fateful judgment day finally arrives.

Truthfully, they don't care. They just hope they can greet the paparazzi with a smile.

"Every day we get back on that plane," the racer says with a shrug, returning to his metaphor of flight. "Up and down, turbulence, whatever the day brings we just keep hanging on. Hanging on until it finally lands." Read full story at ESPN.com

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