Posted on: February 12, 2023, 01:13h.
Last updated on: February 12, 2023, 01:13h.
Yasiel Puig, the former Major League Baseball all-star who faces federal charges in connection to an illegal sports betting investigation, has added a high-powered attorney to his legal team.
On Saturday, Ben Crump held a press conference near the federal courthouse in Los Angeles to discuss the case of the one-time Dodgers slugger charged with lying to investigators and obstructing justice. Crump, best known for his work as a civil rights attorney, has represented the families of Tyre Nichols, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, and Trayvon Martin.
Last November, federal prosecutors announced a plea agreement with Puig, saying he admitted he lied to investigators when he denied placing bets with a former minor league ballplayer who set up his own gambling ring. However, just before the hearing was to take place, Lisette Carnet, Puig’s sports agent, said she had discovered new evidence that led to him pulling out of the deal.
Crump accused prosecutors of making a spectacle out of Puig’s case even though he was not an orchestrator in the scheme.
“The six people who were running the gambling ring, they have been charged, but Yasiel has gotten more of a press statement and release from this (US Attorney’s) office than the people who were committing the heinous crimes that they were targeting,” Crump said Saturday.
Black Athletes Treated Differently, Puig’s Team Says
On Friday, Keri Axel, another lawyer representing Puig, filed a motion to compel the US Attorney’s office to provide information Puig’s team has requested. That includes interview reports from the past five years by the assigned investigators from the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service who questioned Puig in the case. Puig’s team also wants records of communications between federal agents and other witnesses involved in the case pertaining to interviews and charging decisions.
The US Attorney’s office has denied the requests for those materials.
The motion also notes that agents investigating the sports betting ring treated White suspects far differently than the Black athletes they also questioned in the case.
Despite being the actual targets of the investigation, the Sand Islands Sports Agents —none of whom are Black— were consistently treated respectfully by the government, even where they made material misstatements of fact to government agents or attempted to destroy evidence,” the motion states. “The investigative agents gave these individuals multiple interviews to clarify their statements, and did not charge any of them with making false statements or obstruction of justice.”
The motion notes an October 2021 interview of a Black athlete, who was not Puig. In that interview, that athlete first could not recall whether he placed bets more than three years before but by the end of the questioning remembered that he had.
“The government agent conducting the interview then spontaneously admonished him that it was a crime to make false statements and reminded him that Martha Stewart had been charged with a violation” of federal law, the motion states. “The IRS agent never did this when interviewing non-Black individuals, even when their failures of memory were more intentional.”
About the Yasiel Puig Sports Betting Case
Puig allegedly made wagers through people connected to Wayne Nix, a former minor league player who ran a sports betting ring out of Costa Rica. Nix pleaded guilty to his involvement last summer.
According to authorities, Puig’s betting with Nix began in May 2019, and within a month, he had lost $283,000. Prosecutors found that Puig paid down his debt by $200,000 and then subsequently made nearly 900 bets on basketball, football, and tennis matches between July and September of the same year.
None of Puig’s bets involved baseball games.
Axel and Carnet have also pointed out that Puig, who was born in Cuba and has a third-grade education, also suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. All of that, they said contributed to challenges he faced during the January 2022 interview with federal authorities. Axel’s motion accuses the government agents of ending the interview when Puig tried to use his phone messages to answer questions.
Puig, 32, last played in MLB in 2019. Since then, he has played in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and South Korea. Last year for Kiwoom in the Korean Baseball Organization, he belted 21 homers and drove in 73 runs while hitting .277 in 126 games.
Puig is hoping to make a comeback in the majors. Spring Training starts later this month.
Puig officially entered a not guilty plea in his case this past week. Had he gone through with the guilty plea, he would have paid a $55,000 fine and faced a prison term of no more than five years.
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