Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman will not face charges stemming from an October domestic dispute with his girlfriend in which he was accused of firing gunshots, prosecutors in Florida announced Thursday.
Chapman likely still faces a suspension from Major League Baseball, however, per a domestic violence policy introduced last summer. Although prosecutors have wrapped up their investigation, baseball’s probe into the matter is ongoing.
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Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters Thursday that he hopes for a resolution by Opening Day, though he said the matter is “not completely within my control.”
Said Manfred: “You have to really rely on the criminal process playing out in order to put yourself in a position that you’re comfortable to actually know what the facts are before you impose discipline.”
Chapman was accused of firing at least eight gunshots during a dispute with his girlfriend at his mansion in Davie, Florida, on Oct. 30. No one was injured.
Word of the incident eventually scuttled a trade to the Dodgers, opening the door for the Yankees to acquire the fireballing reliever from the Reds.
Paul Molle, Chapman’s attorney, released a statement praising the prosecutors’ decision.
“We are all pleased that the Davie Police Department and the Office of the State Attorney took the time to fully investigate the matter and have concluded that charges were not warranted,” Molle said. “Mr. Chapman would like to thank the Davie police officers and the prosecutors at the Office of the State Attorney for their professionalism.”
The announcement came one day after Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner defended the team’s controversial trade for Chapman.
“In this country, when allegations are brought against a person, that person is completely innocent until proven otherwise. Not the other way around,” Steinbrenner told reporters at the quarterly owners’ meetings in Coral Gables, Florida, on Wednesday. “I think we should keep that in mind right now. But the benefit for the organization, as a player, if you just look at the baseball side of it, there’s tremendous upside, needless to say.”
In a closeout memo issued by the state attorney’s office, the dispute arose when Chapman’s girlfriend, Christina Barnea, found a text message from another woman on the pitcher’s cellphone. In a partial 911 transcript included in the memo, Barnea said Chapman hit and choked her and that she was hiding in the bushes of a neighboring home.
The memo said the incident took place during a friend’s birthday party hosted by Chapman. Police made no arrests, however, because of inconsistencies in accounts of the dispute. Barnea later told police that she did not recall saying that Chapman had struck her. She said she recalled only one gunshot and did not know who fired it.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi already has named Chapman the team’s closer as part of a formidable bullpen trio that includes Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
Said Molle: “Aroldis is looking forward to spring training and his 2016 season with the [Yankees].”
Former Mets star Jose Reyes is facing domestic violence charges, though he’s not slated to stand trial until April unless a plea agreement is reached first, meaning that Chapman’s case could set a precedent under baseball’s new domestic violence rules.
Manfred said he’s aware of the significance of the his ruling. “We really would like to send the right message in terms of what we do here. It’s important in that regard,” he said. “When you have a new policy, the first ones take a special significance in terms of tone and precedent and all those things. I’m going to make sure I know everything I could possibly know about each of these cases before I make any decisions.”