Orioles' Ponson is allowed to move - but not to freedom

He changes police stations in Aruba

2 others bust out

December 31, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The only movement for Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson yesterday involved a transfer, at his request, to another police station in Aruba. But two other men who allegedly participated in the same fight on Christmas that injured a local judge were on the run yesterday.

The two suspects, who were being detained along with Ponson while a prosecutor completed his investigation, escaped from jail in Noord late Wednesday night. They remained at large last night, but a police watch commander said the men likely would be apprehended before morning.

"I think by the end of the night we will have them in custody again," said Sgt. Rudie Soemers.

According to Soemers, the men cut through 1-inch iron bars and bolted sometime between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Ponson, who was detained at a station in the community of San Nicolas, apparently had no knowledge of the escape.

Cameras at the station videotaped the suspects, believed to be Ponson's friends, leaving their cells.

"The prisoners were checked about 11 p.m., and we found the situation," Soemers said.

Ponson asked for the transfer across the island to Noord, a tourist area, so he would be more comfortable. The request was made before the escape, and local authorities granted it yesterday.

"He had complaints about mosquitos and stuff like that," said Vale Hart, a reporter at the daily newspaper Diaria Aruba.

Ponson could be detained for six more days while the prosecutor continues his investigation. Mary Ann Croes, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, said a fourth suspect was arrested yesterday on suspicion of fighting in public and underwent an interrogation.

"He was also with [Ponson]," Croes said. "They were all friends."

If the prosecutor wants to hold Ponson for a period exceeding six days, a judge would have to approve it.

Asked about Ponson's status, Croes said: "Nothing has changed yet. The police are still doing their investigation, and the prosecutor has to evaluate the findings of the police."

Ponson's attorney, Chris Lejuez, remains hopeful the pitcher will be released before the weekend, but said: "It's all in the hands of the prosecutor."

The prosecutor's office is closed today and will remain that way through the weekend, but Ponson still could be released if the investigation is completed. However, Hart predicted Ponson will remain in custody until next week.

"If somebody has to be released, it will happen," Croes said, "no matter if we're closed or open."

The escape made little sense to locals there who didn't see the potential charges of simple assault and fighting in public as serious enough to warrant such a drastic action.

"It's stupid, because they might have released them today or tomorrow," Hart said. "It's not a big case. The three of them perhaps would get community service. But those guys fleeing have nothing to do with Sidney."

Said Soemers: "As long as these guys aren't at the station, they'll stop the whole investigation. If they were [Ponson's] good friends, they should have stayed inside. It's not like it's a murder case."

Croes said Ponson wouldn't necessarily be held longer if police didn't apprehend the suspects.

"If he stays detained, it's because the investigation isn't finished," she said. "It's not like he has to stay because the others escaped."

The fight allegedly began Saturday on a beach in Boca Catalina on Aruba's west coast after a group of people accused Ponson, 28, of harassing them with his personal watercraft and operating it recklessly. Ponson fled the scene and was detained by police later in the night.

The potential assault charge is tied to Ponson's alleged fight with the judge, who received a black eye.

NOTE: Industry sources confirm the Orioles remain interested in acquiring pitcher Javier Vazquez, who appears close to heading to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade that would send Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees.

Vazquez reportedly wants to stay on the East Coast, and the Orioles are looking for a No. 1 starter. They were interested in the right-hander last winter before the Montreal Expos traded him to the Yankees. Orioles executive Jim Beattie was the Expos' general manager when Vazquez broke into the majors in 1998.

It's believed the Diamondbacks would want at least one of the Orioles' young starters and an outfielder, though a source in Arizona said the team is working on a trade for the Los Angeles Dodgers' Shawn Green. Philadelphia also is interested in Vazquez and apparently is willing to trade pitcher Randy Wolf.

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