New York Mets reliever Armando Benitez yesterday agreed to a no-contact order with his former girlfriend after a court hearing in which she alleged that he hit her 15 times during their three-year relationship.
Benitez, a former Oriole, denied ever hitting his one-time fiancee, Stacey O'Neil, 27, but agreed to stay away from her on the condition that O'Neil move out of their Federal Hill home by Jan. 31. O'Neil also agreed not to communicate with Benitez, 28.
The agreement was hashed out in Baltimore District Court by lawyers after O'Neil testified that Benitez hit her several times, once leaving bruises "up and down" her arms and legs.
He told me "he would have to get away from me or he would kill me," O'Neil said. "That was said several times during our relationship."
O'Neil never filed criminal charges against Benitez.
"I was afraid what he would do to me. I was afraid of it hitting the media," O'Neil testified. "I still love him ... it was to protect him."
But on Thursday, she asked for and received a temporary restraining order, alleging Benitez slammed a door against her during a 2 a.m. argument Nov. 9. It began over a spill on his shirt, she said.
Benitez, who came to court with his agent and accountant, said in an interview that he never hurt O'Neil. "I never touched Stacey. I really like her. I really love her," Benitez said.
His lawyers said that Benitez had tried to end the relationship earlier this year and suggested that O'Neil refused to go because she was trying to squeeze money out of Benitez, which she denied.
The pair had been discussing a settlement that would include giving O'Neil an apartment for a year and a car - either a Mitsubishi Eclipse or a Toyota Four-Runner.
O'Neil testified that she wanted to be compensated for two years lost salary and a lost modeling contract, and that she wanted money for therapy because of an abortion she said he forced her to have. At one point, the proposed settlement amounted to "in excess of $200,000," she testified.
"I wanted a chance to restart my life. I felt I had sacrificed my life for him," she testified.
The Mets acquired Benitez from the Orioles on Dec. 1, 1998, in a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He signed a four-year, $22 million contract this year.
While with the Orioles, Benitez earned a reputation for being temperamental, including an incident on May 19, 1998, when he hit the New York Yankees' Tino Martinez in the back with a fastball and challenged the entire Yankeesteam, which charged the mound, resulting in a bench-clearing brawl.