Latest extension of Trevor Bauer’s leave could create an issue for Rob Manfred
Rob Manfred could be on the clock.
The commissioner’s office and the players’ union agreed Friday to extend Trevor Bauer’s leave from the Dodgers through Aug. 20. By that date, a judge could have issued a ruling in the only legal proceeding currently facing Bauer. That could force Manfred to decide whether to suspend Bauer for alleged sexual assault before the Los Angeles County district attorney‘s office decides whether to charge him with a crime.
In a hearing scheduled to start Monday and last up to four days, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge is set to decide whether the temporary restraining order against Bauer should remain in place. That sets up this dynamic: Bauer likely would not testify at the hearing because anything he says could be used in a potential criminal case against him, but the district attorney might not decide whether to charge him until considering what evidence might emerge at the hearing, including how the woman who has accused Bauer fares on the witness stand.
“I would certainly imagine that it would be beneficial to see how the civil case proceeds before deciding whether to file charges,” said Chloe Wolman, a Los Angeles family law attorney.
Trevor Bauer and his attorneys say the pitcher does not plan to discuss a financial settlement with the woman who has accused him of sexual assault.
Lou Shapiro, a veteran Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, said he believed the judge would consider delaying the hearing until the district attorney decides whether to charge Bauer. Wolman said the judge might not be amenable to that, with the hearing date already postponed twice and four days of court time set aside. Bauer’s attorneys have laid out a case that would not necessarily require the testimony of their client.
“He doesn’t necessarily need to testify,” said Josh Ritter, a Los Angeles attorney and a former prosecutor in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. “But it certainly puts him in a more difficult position if he is unable to.”
Bauer has been under investigation for three months.
“At some point, the D.A.’s office has to make a decision,” Shapiro said. “They can’t just hold onto it forever.”
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Ritter said he does not believe the district attorney should need to assess next week’s hearing before deciding whether to file charges against Bauer. The district attorney’s office can interview the accuser and evaluate evidence independently, he said, and should be able to make a decision without considering how vigorous a defense might be mounted by someone with ample financial resources.
“If you have a complaining witness who says they were assaulted,” Ritter said, “and they have physical evidence to back that up, and their story is trustworthy to the extent they can corroborate it by other evidence, I don’t see why they would hesitate to file, even given the seriousness of the person who is involved.
“So it is very curious to me that they would be waiting this long, unless they don’t feel it is that solid of a case.”
If next week’s hearing proceeds as scheduled, and if the judge makes a ruling, that would conclude the matter of the restraining order and could force Manfred’s hand.
The league could ask Bauer and the union for another extension of his paid administrative leave, to accommodate what would be continuing investigations by the Pasadena Police Department and by MLB.
However, if that request is declined, and if the district attorney still has not decided whether to charge Bauer, Manfred would likely not be able to invoke a clause in the MLB domestic violence and sexual assault policy that authorizes him to levy paid suspensions of a player involved in a “criminal or legal proceeding.”
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At that point, Manfred could reinstate Bauer while the MLB investigation continues, deferring any discipline until its conclusion. He also could decide whether to suspend Bauer without pay, and for how long, based on whatever information MLB has, including evidence from next week’s hearing. That decision would come with the risk that additional evidence might later come to light but too late to affect the suspension decision.
Manfred also could decide to let the Dodgers discipline Bauer. If that were to happen, the team could reinstate him, release him and pay off the balance of his $102-million contract, or try to void the contract and risk an almost certain grievance.
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