Erickson, girlfriend downplay his arrest

`Nothing happened'

Angelos offers support

July 23, 2002|By Joe Christensen, Roch Kubatko and Del Quentin Wilber | Joe Christensen, Roch Kubatko and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

After Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson was arrested early yesterday morning in a domestic dispute, his girlfriend, his attorneys and team officials spent the rest of the day downplaying the incident.

Erickson called police to report the dispute with his girlfriend, but he ended up being charged with second-degree assault and was released from custody at about 8 a.m.

"Nothing happened," Erickson said. "It's a situation where they [police] had to do something, and it got blown out of proportion. That's it. Nothing happened at all."

Police said they arrived at Erickson's apartment and found his live-in girlfriend, Lisa Ortiz, "curled up in a ball shape form crying." According to the police report, the two had a heated exchange after Ortiz accused Erickson of cheating on her.

The report said police observed no injuries to Ortiz, 29. Erickson's right foot was bleeding, and Ortiz had bloodstains on the rear of her pants.

Erickson, 34, also had a mark on his right arm where Ortiz had bit him, police said.

Yesterday afternoon, Ortiz made a statement to reporters arranged through Erickson's agents with the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

"First, let me say, this is a private matter between Scott and myself and unfortunately has escalated to the level of police involvement," said Ortiz, who did not take questions. "I want to set the record straight that Scott has never been physically abusive toward me. And in no way do I feel threatened or felt fear from Scott. This was just a case of miscommunication.

"That's all I have to say on this matter."

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, declined to comment on Erickson's case. But Burns said it is not unusual for victims of domestic violence to "recant or minimize what happened to the point that conviction is unlikely."

Baltimore averages about 60 domestic violence cases per day, but prosecutors are forced to drop about half of them because victims do not want to testify or change their testimony, Burns said.

Erickson has been with the Orioles since 1995, making him the longest-tenured player on the team. He made the Opening Day start this season after missing 20 months recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. He is 4-9 with a 4.25 ERA and had a subpar performance in Sunday's 8-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove gave no indication that yesterday's incident would alter Erickson's status with the team. Erickson is scheduled to pitch on Saturday in Boston.

"The only thing [I can say] is that I know Scott Erickson," Hargrove said. "He is a gentleman. He's been a good teammate and team member. Beyond that, there's nothing really I can say. I have no knowledge of any of the particulars."

Erickson's court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 6. The Orioles are home that night against the Anaheim Angels. He called club owner Peter Angelos' law firm for assistance and will be represented in this matter by Scott Shellenberger.

"I know him to be very responsible and well-spoken," Angelos said. "He's a gentleman. He's a quiet, unobtrusive, well-behaved guy. I'm sure it's just a personal matter with someone he's very close with. Those things happen."

Police said they responded to a call from Erickson and arrived at his downtown apartment at 3:12 a.m. Ortiz told officers that she came home from work and confronted Erickson about "cheating on her," police said.

She then began arguing with Erickson and throwing "items" around the apartment and tore down a rack of clothes in the closet, police said.

Erickson grabbed Ortiz by the waist, picked her up and took her out the front door and left her in the hallway, police said. Ortiz told police she tried to keep going into the apartment when Erickson "grabbed her around the neck and threw her to the floor," police said, before grabbing her by the hair and dragging her to the elevator.

Erickson then called the police. He told officers he had picked up Ortiz by the waist in an "attempt to calm her down" and walked her to the front door," police said.

Erickson said Ortiz bit him on the arm, bruising it, police said.

Erickson and Ortiz, who did not have any other visible signs of injury, refused medical treatment. Ortiz also did not fill out or sign a domestic violence report, police said.

Shellenberger said, to his knowledge, Erickson has no previous arrests on his record.

"He was appropriately concerned, and based on our review of the charges, we don't think he has committed a crime," Shellenberger said. "In light of Lisa's statement, we think it's going to turn out well for him in the courtroom.

"He was trying to calm down the situation," the attorney added. "When the police arrived, they took what they believed ... was appropriate action."

Erickson is making $5 million this season and will make $6.6 million next season.

After that, he is eligible for free agency, which is one reason his name has surfaced recently as a potential trade target.

Vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift, who has said he doesn't want to trade Erickson, said this incident did nothing to change his feelings.

"I don't feel any different today than I did yesterday, last week or last month," Thrift said.

Erickson left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters after Sunday's game, a rare move for him, but he emerged from the trainer's room yesterday as soon as the clubhouse was open to the media, asking, "Does anybody have any questions?"

Asked if he was sure he'd be exonerated, he said, "Yes, there's no doubt in my mind. There's no problems. There's nothing. It's just a bad break."

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