Prosecutors deny anti-Black bias in Puig case, level to letter his legal professionals did not need shared

Prosecutors deny anti-Black bias in Puig case, level to letter his legal professionals did not need shared

Prosecutors deny anti-Black bias in Puig case, level to letter his legal professionals did not need shared

Former Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, middle, at a information convention exterior the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 11. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Instances)

Federal prosecutors are rejecting claims of anti-Black bias of their legal case towards former Dodger Yasiel Puig, calling the allegations a part of a last-ditch try to keep away from trial — one which additionally included a “private attraction” to the prosecutors’ boss with a request that or not it’s saved secret.

Puig faces charges of mendacity to federal authorities and obstruction of justice within the investigation of a sports gambling operation run by former minor league baseball participant Wayne Nix.

At a information convention and in courtroom filings, Puig’s attorneys have alleged federal prosecutors have been “inclined to view Black men as untruthful” and handled white defendants within the investigation in another way.

However in a courtroom submitting Wednesday, prosecutors vehemently denied the allegation and referred to it as a hole “eleventh-hour assertion.” Within the 40-page submitting, Assistant U.S. Atty. Jeff Mitchell argued that Puig’s attorneys solely introduced up the accusation of bias after different makes an attempt to keep away from a trial failed.

These makes an attempt included a “non-public private attraction” to Martin Estrada, U.S. lawyer for the Central District of California and the boss of the federal prosecutors in Puig’s legal case. Within the Nov. 28 letter to Estrada, Puig’s lawyer Keri Axel, a former federal prosecutor in Southern California, pushed for the case to be resolved in a diversion program, by which the legal expenses might be dismissed or decreased.

Axel additionally implored the U.S. lawyer “to take a gathering, as there are issues I can solely say privately,” and requested Estrada to not notify the prosecutors on the case concerning the letter’s contents.

The letter is cited in courtroom filings however is at the moment underneath seal.

Though, based on prosecutors, there had been three earlier makes an attempt to refer the case for diversion, the letter to Estrada was the primary time Puig’s protection attorneys alleged “selective prosecution points and the implicit biases of presidency brokers,” they stated.

Axel informed The Instances that — regardless of the request — she anticipated that the letter would finally be shared with the prosecutors within the case. She stated she felt it was correct to convey up considerations of selective prosecution to Estrada first, as a supervisor, as an alternative of bringing the allegation to prosecutors themselves.

“It might be typical once you’re elevating selective prosecution points,” Axel stated. “You’d make that to the supervisor.”

Axel wouldn’t go into specifics concerning the issues she stated she may solely inform Estrada privately, however she stated protection attorneys wished to inform Estrada and the “entrance workplace” about “details supporting Puig’s innocence” and concerning the prosecutors assigned to the case.

“We wished to speak concerning the prosecution group’s biases whereas not attacking their character as folks,” Axel stated. “I imagine a gathering may have been a productive discussion board to debate these points.”

Based on courtroom filings, Puig is accused of mendacity about his involvement and denying he positioned bets with the playing enterprise, regardless of allegedly making 899 bets on video games and incurring at one level a debt of greater than $280,000.

Puig initially signed a plea settlement in July 2022 that might have resulted in a sentence of probation and no jail time if he’d pleaded responsible to a single cost of mendacity to federal brokers. Regardless of the signed settlement, Puig’s attorneys made a number of requests to prosecutors for pretrial diversion, with the likelihood for lesser expenses or their dismissal.

Final yr on Oct. 7, Nov. 17 and Nov. 22, Mitchell says, Puig’s attorneys requested for the diversion, citing Puig’s minimal training, ADHD, cultural background, and claims that he had been entrapped by investigators and focused due to his “superstar standing.” None of these requests, prosecutors stated, talked about racial bias. All of them have been denied.

“Solely after the federal government rejected defendant’s a number of requests for diversion and confirmed that he couldn’t have been entrapped, and virtually 5 months after defendant signed the plea settlement, did defendant declare for the primary time that he was a sufferer of race-based selective prosecution,” based on the submitting.

Axel stated there was no request for diversion made on Nov. 17.

Days after the failed Nov. 22 try to refer the case to diversion, Puig’s lawyer despatched the letter to Estrada, requesting the non-public assembly to debate the case.

That request, in addition to the request for pretrial diversion, was denied by the chief of the legal division, based on the submitting. Regardless of Axel’s request, prosecuting attorneys have been additionally notified of the letter to their boss.

Axel stated prosecutors’ declare that racial bias considerations have been raised on the eleventh hour was “patently false.”

“The protection raised the difficulty instantly upon discovery,” she stated.

It was after protection attorneys acquired an interview report on Nov. 22, the week of Thanksgiving, that protection attorneys notified prosecutors through electronic mail about disparate remedy, she stated. Protection attorneys raised the difficulty as shortly as they might, she stated, regardless of the vacation break.

The next Monday, she stated, the letter to Estrada claiming implicit bias was despatched.

Paperwork detailing interviews from the investigation, offered by prosecutors as a part of the invention course of, have strengthened protection attorneys’ claims that racial bias performed a job, Axel maintains.

Puig in the end withdrew from his plea settlement and vowed to battle the costs at trial. After he refused to observe by way of with the plea settlement, federal prosecutors filed an additional charge of obstruction of justice.

Axel on the time known as the choice an “unfair prosecution.”

Axel went on to allege in courtroom filings and at a information convention that federal brokers took an aggressive posture with Puig and different Black people linked to the investigation.

Axel pointed to a warning Puig was given in the beginning of an interview with an agent from the Inner Income Service that mendacity in the course of the interview may lead to federal expenses.

In courtroom filings, Puig’s attorneys additionally cited an unnamed worker of the playing firm in query who allegedly made “demonstrably false” statements about his communication with Puig and wasn’t admonished the identical approach by federal brokers.

Federal officers deny the declare, and state in Wednesday’s filings that Puig “was handled pretty and the federal government’s charging choices weren’t affected by race in any approach.”

Thirty-two of the 34 individuals who have been interviewed within the investigation have been “admonished” and warned that mendacity to federal brokers may imply federal expenses, based on the submitting.

Prosecutors additionally denied claims that non-Black interviewees got an opportunity to right false statements, whereas Black interviewees have been solely warned concerning the potential for prosecution.

Federal officers gave all witnesses an opportunity to right flawed or false statements, together with Puig, based on the submitting. After Puig allegedly gave false data to the brokers, officers privately knowledgeable his attorneys they’d proof instantly contradicting his statements, based on courtroom paperwork, however Puig did not change his feedback.

Axel maintains Black witnesses have been handled in another way.

“The federal government claims all witnesses got a possibility to right,” she stated, “however for Black males, they assumed they have been initially mendacity whereas white males have been usually given the good thing about the doubt about whether or not they have been affected by well-intentioned reminiscence failures.”

Prosecutors argue that not solely did Puig give dangerous data to investigators and refuse to right it, however proof additionally suggests he informed others he was conscious that he’d lied.

Weeks after his interview, Puig despatched a recorded message through WhatsApp to an affiliate about his interview with federal brokers.

“I no stated nothing, I not speaking,” Puig allegedly stated within the message. “I stated that I solely know [Agent 1] from baseball.”

Axel stated that, though she could not talk about the context of the message, it was “in truth an try to keep away from meddling within the authorities’s investigation.”

“The proof will present that Puig had no intent to hinder the investigation,” she stated.

Prosecutors contend that the message “is highly effective proof of guilt.”

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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