Attorneys for former Dodgers player Yasiel Puig, who was expected to plead guilty Wednesday to lying to federal authorities investigating an illegal sports gambling ring, say they are exploring a possible defense.
Puig was joined by his attorneys, Kerry Axel and Jose Nuno, and his agent, Lisette Carnet, on Wednesday at US District Court in downtown Los Angeles. A judge agreed to continue the hearing until Tuesday.
“We need more time to evaluate a potential defense of innocence,” Axel told the Times after the hearing.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said Puig, 31, earlier signed an agreement to plead guilty to one count of making a false statement, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. He also agreed to pay a minimum fine of $55,000.
Prosecutors alleged that Puig “made several false statements to clients that were material to the investigation” when federal authorities interviewed him on January 27 about the gambling ring, according to the plea agreement.
After the agreement was revealed on November 14, Axel told The Times that Puig would be eligible for probation and looked forward to putting the ring behind him. But in the days since, Axel said, evidence has emerged that has changed her view of the case.
Puig had bet on an illegal sports gambling operation Managed by Wayne Nixa Former minor league baseball player who lives in Newport Beach, but has not been charged in connection with participation in the ring’s operations. These bets passed through a third party, a former college baseball player and special coach referred to in the plea agreement as “Agent 1”, who placed and accepted the bets for the Knicks business.
Axel said she discovered multiple messages sent by Agent 1 and his partner to her client.
Agent 1 and the partner asked Puig several times to talk about the federal investigation, but he refused, she said.
Until Axel saw the letters, she said in court, she did not realize how many times Agent 1 and Partner contacted Puig for information about the investigation, how many times Puig refused to tell them about the investigation, and the potential The customer is trapped.
Axel told US District Judge Dolly G that she wants time to request and review records kept by prosecutors so she can give Puig appropriate advice about whether there is a potential defense — including the federal government’s report of the interview with Puig, and the handwritten notes of the interview that were made. Taken by the agents and any charging documents or payment agreements relating to Agent 1 and Partner.
Puig’s camp said it had no Spanish interpreter or criminal defense attorney during the interview.
Axel said she faced multiple challenges counseling her client, a Spanish-speaking, third-grade-educated baseball player in South Korea until he returned to the United States last week to be charged. She said that trying to advise Puig on complex legal issues while dealing with the language barrier and time difference was quite a challenge.
US Assistant Atti. Jeff Mitchell, one of two prosecutors working on the case, said the plea agreement had been signed months earlier and that prosecutors had presented their evidence to Puig’s defense team.
Mitchell said Puig’s team’s request could cause him to violate his plea agreement, though Axel told the judge that Puig did not want to breach his agreement at this time.
Puig, who defected from Cuba in 2012, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2019. Puig last played for Major League Baseball in 2019. He has since played in the Dominican Winter League, the Mexican League, and last season in South Korea.