The Dodgers’ Other Legal Matter

Earlier this week, I examined the federal grand jury probe currently looking into possible misdeeds by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Latin America. Even in a best-case scenario, it would appear as though the organization (or, at least, individuals associated with the organization) is in some real trouble.

According to a report yesterday from the Daily Beast’s Adam Rawnsley, however, it would appear as though the Dodgers have been named in conjunction with a completely different matter, as well. From Rawnsley’s piece:

The email from the manager of a Hampton Inn in Glendale, Arizona, stunned the Los Angeles Dodgers. A minor-league player recently signed by the team had been accused of harassing and then sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper. The situation, the manager wrote, was “unacceptable.”

“I guess for a few weeks now [the player] has been making remarks and asking her to go out with him,” the manager wrote in an email to a team official that was obtained by The Daily Beast. “She keeps telling him that she has a boyfriend and is not interested but he still keeps making comments. . . . On Sunday things elevated where she was cleaning another room and he came up behind her and grabbed her,” the email continued. “She pushed him back and he came back and grabbed her yet again. She told him that she wasn’t interested and that he needed to leave and he did.”

While the unnamed minor leaguer’s conduct is certainly worthy of some attention in and of itself, the incident is perhaps even more notable both for (a) the Dodgers’ behavior in its wake and (b) the larger implications for domestic-violence policy (or its absence) in the minor leagues.

Regarding the first of those points, Craig Calcaterra provides some further information.

According to internal emails, the Dodgers investigated the incident and, by all indications, believed the maid’s account. High-ranking officials were in the loop, including then-head of player development Gabe Kapler who said in an email that he was “embarrassed for our organization.” Another Dodgers official said that the player was lucky not to be in jail. The police were not called, it seems, as the maid did not wish to alert authorities.

As to the housekeeper’s motivations for not reporting the incident(s), I won’t address that here. There are many possible reasons. If one takes as credible the maid’s account of events, however — which the Dodgers themselves appear to have done — it’s likely that the unnamed minor leaguer’s conduct amounts to a criminal act of some kind (which is relevant for reasons I’ll discuss below).

Under Arizona law, for example, “assault” is defined in Section 13-1203 of the Criminal Code.

A. A person commits assault by:

1. Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person; or

2. Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or

3. Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person.

B. Assault committed intentionally or knowingly pursuant to subsection A, paragraph 1 is a class 1 misdemeanor. Assault committed recklessly pursuant to subsection A, paragraph 1 or assault pursuant to subsection A, paragraph 2 is a class 2 misdemeanor. Assault committed pursuant to subsection A, paragraph 3 is a class 3 misdemeanor.

Per the language used here, either A(2) and A(3) would seem relevant to the player’s actions with the housekeeper. And if not those, then a crime called “Threatening or Intimidating” under the Section 13-1202 of the Arizona Criminal Code might also be relevant. In Arizona, it’s a misdemeanor when a person “threatens or intimidates by word or conduct…  [t]o cause physical injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another….” Depending on where and how the player placed his hands, he could also be guilty of aggravated assault under Section 13-1204.

The point isn’t necessarily to pinpoint exactly what crime the player committed, so much as to establish that — assuming the manager was accurate in his email — the player appears to have committed some kind of crime. For a club that was recently alleged not to have reported crimes related to their signings in Latin America, this seemingly unrelated case suddenly has the look of a symptom of something larger.

Also possibly troublesome, for a couple possible reasons, is how the Dodgers ultimately resolved the situation. As noted, the organization didn’t alert the authorities. According to Rawnsley, though, they also didn’t report the incident to Major League Baseball, instead electing to send the player home.

It would appear that even this decision wasn’t necessarily regarded as a punishment by those in the organization. Per Rawnsley:

[Dodgers manager of international scouting Roman] Barinas then wrote: “AZ Instructs [a postseason development program] is a privilege. Sending him home isn’t a punishment in my mind. His actions just show us that he doesn’t yet deserve that privilege. I suggest we have him report to [Dominican Republic] Instructs to learn more about what we stand for as an organization in an environment more suitable to his maturity level and understanding of American culture. This is my initial reaction, I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.”

The Dodgers may or may not have been correct in declining to report what their player did to authorities, but there’s a pretty big difference between reporting the crime to authorities and just sending the player home without any kind of disciplinary action whatsoever. And discipline is relevant here. Because, consider: while it’s unclear (at best) whether teams have to report incidents like this involving minor leaguers to MLB or other teams, Rule 13 of the Major League Rules — which would most likely govern something like this — states that a team must inform MLB if a minor-league player is fined or suspended for misconduct. There is no such reporting requirement for the misconduct itself, however, if no discipline is issued.

The Dodgers may well have refrained from suspending or fining the player for exactly this reason — so that they wouldn’t be compelled to report the behavior. Given that minor-league baseball is a kind of employment, however, it stands to reason that an incident like this may well be of interest to future employers of that player — and, indeed, the player did sign with another team following his release by Los Angeles.

This only adds credence to the idea that the Dodgers should have told someone instead of just keeping it quiet. But even if we establish that the Dodgers should have told someone, who would they have told? There’s no language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement requiring it, and of course there’s no CBA governing the minor leagues.

And despite suggestions that steps would be taken to extend the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy to the minor leagues, that hasn’t happened yet. So while different teams have taken different approaches — the Houston Astros, for example, cut Danry Vasquez for domestic violence as part of their pre-Roberto Osuna “zero tolerance” policy — for many teams, there’s no discipline or consequences at all.

So whilst the Dodgers didn’t exactly distinguish themselves here, it’s also fair to say that something like this is probably not unusual given the current structure of the minor leagues. It’s likely that the Dodgers will receive the bulk of the flack here — and probably deservedly so — but it’s worth noting that this doesn’t look like a problem unique to the Dodgers. Instead, it’s structural, and therefore likely to recur. As a result, it probably merits a closer look by MLB, particularly as we continue to wait for delivery of those long-promised minor-league rules on domestic violence.





Sheryl Ring is a litigation attorney and General Counsel at Open Communities, a non-profit legal aid agency in the Chicago suburbs. You can reach her on twitter at @Ring_Sheryl. The opinions expressed here are solely the author's. This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

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rustydude
Member
Member
rustydude

It’s amazing that teams don’t have wide and deep policies and training for young minor league players regarding behavior off the field, especially in places like Florida and Arizona. At a minimum players should be intimately familiar with all penalties associated with personal conduct. A HS friend of mine described the atmosphere in Florida when he was drafted by the Pirates in 1979. The environment is ripe for all kinds of criminal behavior by players. And the environment existed long before 1979, too.

johnsilver
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johnsilver

Agree with that I know of a player (minor league from Winter haven) who sexually assaulted a young lady, the team did nothing, except send him to another A ball team within the organization and this guy was definitely nothing special either. Remember the year well.. It was 1977, He did worse with Cleveland organization several years later remembered finding out about and was called out for actual rape and released.

The wild parties the kids would have were crazy. Doubt seriously anything close to that goes on any longer. The stories could tell..

Magician_531
Member
Magician_531

People should refrain from sexual assault regardless of whether or not they know there is a punishment (which it doesn’t even appear that there is). Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but it sounds almost like you’re saying that this guy thought sexual assault was okay because he wasn’t informed that there was a punishment.