Still being held, O's Ponson to face prosecutor in Aruba

`It's a tough situation,' mentor there says of pitcher after fight

Baseball

December 28, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Sidney Ponson and his attorney will make an appearance before the public prosecutor in Aruba today in relation to a fight on Christmas Day that allegedly caused injuries to a local judge and led to the Orioles pitcher's detainment by police.

Ponson has not been formally charged with a crime, but he's being held based on a complaint of assault.

Jesus "Chu" Halabi, the Orioles' Caribbean scouting supervisor, said authorities continue to interview witnesses to the fight, which took place on a beach in Boca Catalina after a group of people accused Ponson of harassing them with his personal watercraft.

Ponson, 28, allegedly struck one of the men, later identified as a judge, before fleeing the scene. According to Halabi, who lives in Aruba, the victim received treatment for a black eye and was released from the hospital without staying overnight.

Police detained Ponson late Saturday night. He is being held in a station cell in the community of San Nicolas.

"He's not in prison. It's not like he's in jail," Halabi said. "But either way, it's not a good place to be."

Sources close to Ponson, who wasn't injured, expect him to receive a fine and perhaps pay restitution and perform community service. "It's a tough situation," said Halabi, who has been a father figure and mentor to Ponson. "I've been trying to find out what's going on. I don't think it's that much of a problem, though. There was a fight. I don't know who started it, so I can't blame Sidney or the other people. But nobody's in the hospital, and we don't expect him to get any time in jail."

Under Aruba's legal system, Ponson is only allowed to have contact with his attorney, Chris Lejuez. None of his family or friends has spoken to him, but information is being relayed through Lejuez.

Lejuez declined to be interviewed by The Sun last night. An Orioles spokesman said the club won't comment on the incident until all the information has been gathered.

Ponson will learn today whether the investigation has been completed. His confinement could be extended up to eight more days.

If the prosecutor requests that more than eight days are needed, a judge will make the final determination.

Halabi said he's been told that four men confronted Ponson on the beach, and two of the pitcher's friends rushed to his aid.

"A guy says, `If you're so tough, why don't you come up and show me that?' And he went up and that's when the fight started. That's the version I have," Halabi said.

"As long as his story matches the judge's story, he can go home. If one of the parties says `no,' then that can complicate things a little bit. But we don't expect that to happen."

If Ponson is released this week, Halabi plans to bring him to the United States - either Baltimore or Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - so the pitcher can resume his workouts.

"Maybe this is good that it happened," Halabi said. "I know Sidney better than anybody, and he's a great kid. He's a great human being. But he does things that young people do, and this time it backfired on him.

"Some on the island are kind of jealous. He's Sidney; things get blown out of proportion."

Halabi said he's concerned about how the incident will affect Ponson's reputation in Baltimore, which already is ripe with stories of his fondness for the nightlife.

"I'm worried about that," Halabi said. "I've been with Sidney for 17 years and every year, little by little, he's getting better. But maybe it's not where we want him to be yet.

"I'm protective. I love the kid dearly. I don't have one bad word to say about him. He reminds me of myself when I was 28. I was a hothead, I was a brawler. But Sidney doesn't hurt people on purpose."

Ponson has spent most of his professional career with the Orioles, who introduced him to the majors in 1998, five years after Halabi signed him. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants in July 2003, but returned to the organization as a free agent after signing a three-year, $22.5 million contract.

As he's done so often in the past, Halabi said he'll counsel Ponson on his behavior and offer whatever support is needed.

"I'm going to sit down with him and say, `Listen, these are the consequences you might have to face. Don't go out so much, don't hang out with certain people. If somebody says something to you, ignore it.'

"He's been running, swimming, riding the bicycle. He looks good. We just hope we can get things squared away and go play ball and win 20 games."

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