Former MLB player Yasiel Puig faces new charges of obstruction of justice in connection with his involvement in an illegal sports gambling operation. In November, Puig backed out of an agreement to plead guilty to a felony charge of lying to federal investigators and changed his plea to not guilty.
Puig pleaded not guilty to both counts in Los Angeles on Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times, and a trial date has been set for April 25.
“We are disappointed that the United States Attorney’s Office has continued to entrench in their unfair prosecution of Yasiel Puig,” said Puig’s attorney, Keri Axel. said in a statement via the player’s Twitter account on Friday. “It is not new conduct: the new charge of alleged obstruction is based on the same baseless allegations as the original charge, all of which relate to a single Zoom interview.”
Pursuant to his original plea deal, Puig began placing bets on sporting events through a third party in May 2019. That third party — identified as “Agent 1” in court documents — was working on behalf of an illegal gambling business operated by Wayne Joseph Nix, according to US Attorneys.
In January 2022, federal investigators questioned Puig and his attorney. Puig is said to have lied on numerous occasions, falsely claiming he only knew the third party from baseball and not from gambling. According to US prosecutors, Puig spoke hundreds of times by phone and text message with the third party about sports betting.
“I want to clear my name,” Puig said in a statement released as he withdrew his guilty plea. “I should never have agreed to plead guilty to a crime I did not commit.”
Axel said at the time that “significant new evidence has come to light that has led to this change in pleading.” As part of the original plea deal, Puig had also agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000.
“At the time of his interview in January 2022, Mr. Puig, who is in third grade education, had untreated mental health issues and did not have his own interpreter or criminal counsel with him,” Axel said. “We have reviewed the evidence, including important new information, and have serious concerns about the allegations against Yasiel.
According to the initial indictment, Puig allegedly lied that he didn’t know the person who instructed him to buy $200,000 in bank checks to be sent to one of Nix’s gambling clients. According to US prosecutors, Puig falsely testified that he placed a bet online through an unknown person on an unknown website. In March 2022, Puig admitted in a WhatsApp audio message that he lied to federal agents in January, according to US Attorneys.
In a statement following his initial guilty plea, his agent Lisette Carnet said Puig “came into the interview feeling rushed, unprepared, without a defense attorney with him and also without his own interpreter. Given his childhood in authoritarian Cuba, government interviews are triggers and only exacerbate his ADHD symptoms and other mental health issues for which he is being treated.”
In an inquiry filing on Friday, Puig’s attorney said they “have raised the issue of selective prosecution with the government on several occasions” and are “seeking investigations relevant to showing that similarly situated individuals are of a different race.” and a different cultural background than Puig were not prosecuted.”
The motion continues: “The discovery to date has made it clear that bias – whether explicit or implicit – influenced the government’s view of the credibility of Puig and other black men in the investigation. The evidence shows that despite evidence to the contrary, the government tended to view black men as insincere and uncooperative and non-black men as truthful and cooperative, and when non-black men made false statements they were given an opportunity to correct or rehabilitate them these statements and were not charged.
Puig, 32, played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (2013 to 2018), Cincinnati Reds (2019) and Cleveland Guardians (2019) during his MLB career. On December 8, 2021, Puig signed a one-year, $1 million deal with Kiwoom Heroes in South Korea’s KBO League.
(Photo: David Berding / USA Today)
https://theathletic.com/4186076/2023/02/11/yasiel-puig-gambling-charges/ Yasiel Puig faces new charges in sports betting investigation; Former MLB player’s attorney alleges racial bias