Former Dodgers Outfielder Yasiel Puig Facing Obstruction Of Justice Charge

Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is in the midst of a legal battle regarding bets he placed on sporting events with an illegal gambling operation.

Puig previously agreed to plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal law enforcement officials about the bets he placed. However, attorneys for Puig announced that significant new evidence prompted the former All-Star to withdraw his agreement and change his plea to not guilty.

The change came after Puig’s lawyers said they believe a defense case exists for him. But with no plea deal in place, Puig now faces an additional charge he will need to defend himself against in court, via Salvador Hernandez of the L.A. Times:

After reneging on the plea agreement, Puig, 32, now faces a charge of obstruction of justice in addition to the original charge of making false statements to federal officials, according to a superseding indictment.

Puig’s remarks occurred during a Zoom interview in January 2022 related to his betting activity from 2019.

In a statement, Puig’s attorneys say he was preparing to leave for South Korea for the upcoming season when he learned the government was investigating the gambling business run by Wayne Nix, a former Minor League player.

They also claim the 31-year-old was told he would just be a witness in the case, along with other pro athletes and celebrities. Since then, Puig is the only witness to have been charged by the authorities.

In addition, his attorneys go on to say, “Information produced by the government thus far confirms that bias affected federal investigators’ assessment of Puig’s credibility as a witness, especially when compared with non-Black witnesses. That ultimately led to the decision to charge him with two crimes: making false statements and obstruction of justice.

“The Department of Justice has refused to discuss the matter with Puig’s attorneys or provide additional information that would further show its patterns and practices when it comes to interviewing and charging Black men versus similarly situated non-Black persons.”

Puig was facing a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and he agreed to pay a fine of at least $55,000 as part of his previous plea deal. Obstruction of justice is a felony under federal law, and it also carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, in addition to fines.

He last appeared in a game with the Dodgers in 2018 before he went on to play for the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds during his final season at the Major League level.

Puig has since gone on to play for the Toros del Este of the Dominican Winter League and El Aguila de Veracruz of the Mexican League. He most recently was playing for the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO).

On Saturday, in front of the United States District Court in Los Angeles, Puig will be making his only public remarks prior to his upcoming trial.

In addition to Puig, he will be joined by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, trial and appellate attorney and former Asst. U.S. Attorney Keri Axel, his agent Lisette Carnet, and attorney and expert in Cuban exiles Ramiro Lluis.

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