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Cop: Wally Backman didn't appear intoxicated when arrested on domestic charges

An officer's testimony in Wally Backman's trial contradicted information in his police report after the former Met's arrest. (Credit: Newsday / James Carbone)

The Riverhead Town cop who arrested Wally Backman last summer after a domestic dispute acknowledged in court Tuesday that the former Met did not appear intoxicated at the time, contradicting his police report of the incident.

Officer Timothy Murphy testified Tuesday that after the arrest, he checked a box on a report to indicate Backman was under the influence of alcohol.

Murphy testified he checked the box because the Long Island Ducks manager said he had been drinking the night before. But Backman did not appear impaired when Murphy arrested him, the 20-year Riverhead police veteran said during a combative cross-examination by Backman’s attorney, William Keahon of Happauge. 

“He was articulate. He was cooperative,” Murphy said of Backman, a former Mets second baseman and key contributor to the team's 1986 World Series championship. “I got along with him.”

Murphy's testimony came on day one of Backman's trial for criminal mischief and harassment in connection with an Aug. 30 dispute with his ex-girlfriend, Amanda Byrnes, at her Riverhead home.

Keahon and co-counsel Stephen Civardi of Freeport portrayed Backman as the victim of overeager police and a mentally unstable ex-girlfriend who has a history of making false accusations and a lengthy criminal record.

Backman is on trial before Judge Lori Hulse in Riverhead Town Justice Court on charges of fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, and second-degree harassment, a violation. Backman waived his right to a jury trial Tuesday so Hulse will decide his verdict. 

Backman, 60, of Deer Park, pushed Byrnes against a wall at her Riverhead home, according to court documents, and twisted her left hand as she tried to call 911. Murphy testified that he saw marks and blood on Byrne’s hand after he responded to a 911 call.

Civardi told Hulse before the trial began that he would call two of Byrnes' former boyfriends to testify that she made false allegations to police about them after they each attempted to break up with her. Murphy testified that Backman told him his wife had found out about the relationship with Byrnes. Backman told Murphy he tried to break up with Byrnes but she took his keys and phone to prevent him from leaving, the officer testified. 

Byrnes had made false 911 calls 41 times, Civardi said, citing her rap sheet that includes convictions for aggravated harassment, endangering the welfare of a child and petit larceny.

During questioning by Keahon, Murphy acknowledged that he had responded to three or four calls to Byrne’s home — including one about two months after Backman’s arrest. 

Prosecutor Kyle Grasser said that indeed, Byrnes had led a troubled life, but most of her problems occurred more than 10 years ago.

“That is antithetical to who she is today,” Grasser said.

John Ray, Byrnes' Sayville attorney, who represents her in a multimillion lawsuit filed in September against Backman, said the defense team had unfairly blamed the victim. 

“Amanda has not had a perfect life but even imperfect people can be beaten,” said Ray, who attended the trial Tuesday. Byrnes would appear as a witness in the case when it resumes Wednesday afternoon, Ray said. 

Hulse rebuked the prosecution after Keahon and Civiardi told her the district attorney’s office had not provided documents and other evidence related to the case in a timely fashion. 

Backman played for the Mets from 1980 to 1988. He coached in the Mets’ system from 2010 to 2016 and was named the sixth manager in the Ducks’ history in late November 2018. Ducks general manager Michael Pfaff, who attended the first day of the trial, said the team believes in Backman’s innocence. 

In 2001, Backman was charged with misdemeanor harassment in an incident involving his wife, Sandi, and her friend, Sherrie Rhoden, in Princeville, Oregon.

Authorities at the time said Backman suffered a broken arm in the domestic scuffle when Rhoden struck him with one of his own used bats from the '86 World Series. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation, ordered to undergo an anger management evaluation and donate $1,000 to the local Boys and Girls Club.

A year earlier, Backman was arrested and later convicted on a DUI charge in Kennewick, Washington.

With AP

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