Monday, November 9, 2009

Villalona: paying off a family?

I've been in enough seafood restaurants to know when something smells fishy. Tonight I just read something smelling so fishy I would've walked out of the restaurant's door and never looked back.

According to Andrew Baggarly's blog, which cites an AP report Angel Villalona is out of jail. Normally I'd be jumping for joy. A teammate who had been accused of something walked out of jail. I should be happy, right?

Well, I'm not jumping for joy. The judge has apparently accepted a request by the family of the victim to drop the charges. Baggarly states that according to rumor, Villalona "paid $150,000 to the family of the slain man."

I went to the website of Diario Libre, the main paper in the DR, to get more information. They're now reporting that instead of 5 million pesos, Villalona actually paid the family 2 million pesons. They cite the mother of the victim as the source, so it seems pretty solid.

So how much is a peso? Well, I did an online search for an exchange rate and it's around 36.68 pesos per dollar. So at 5 million pesos, the amount would've been $136,314. At 2 million pesos? Try $54,524.

I hate believing rumors, but if this is true, then Villalona just paid off a family for a little over $50,000.

Upon Villalona's arrest a month ago, I posted on this blog about it. Here's an excerpt:

Again, I hope that Villalona didn’t commit this murder, but if he did, justice needs to be served. The thought still reigns as almost incomprehensible, but I have to remember that my teammates don’t grow up in cushy little suburbs in the United States, playing 60 games a year for traveling Little League teams that extort $5,000 for the “opportunity” to play. Instead, they come from a still developing country with a high crime rate, where $5,000 represents more than half of the average household income.


Most of the things I stated in that paragraph remain true. I hope he didn't commit this murder. The guy was/is a teammate, and I got along with him more than well. Not only a huge kid but also a huge prospect, a tremendous amount of pressure had been placed on his broad shoulders. He went through times where he displayed a broad smile and he went through times where he was frustrated. I'd consider him a friend.

But I also believe that justice needs to be served. And how can justice be served if the family is paid off?

The prosecutor states that he wants to continue to pursue this case. Obviously I'm no expert in Dominican law, but without a judge behind him, I'm wondering if he'll be able to bring anything to trial.

I wanted to believe my teammate was innocent. I wanted something to come forward to exonerate him. I wanted to see him walk out of prison a free man. But not like this. This just smells like rotten sushi, and nobody likes rotten sushi.

33 comments:

Debbie said...

Paraphrasing Dorothy, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto." Woah. What a turn of events!

What WILL the Giants do if their prospect is let off thanks to Dominican "justice"? And what really happened that night in the bar? Does Angel himself even really know?

gbroshuis said...

I don't know if we'll ever know what went on in that bar. And the Giants are in a terrible situation. The guy's not going to be convicted of anything. How can they punish him?

crazedparent said...

I just read that he's still up on criminal charges but the family won't file civil charges.

The rest is all back door stuff and I'm pretty certain it'll stay that way.

gbroshuis said...

I just read that too. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Truth is, we might never know what went on that night. Only Angel will know.

Richard Keith Winters said...

garrett,
i think you are being way to harsh here.

no one knows what happened. what if it was self defense, or if another member of angels group actually shot him. we have yet to hear from Angel.

even if he did pay the family off,does not admit guilt. would you pay 50K to avoid the possiblity of 20 years, even if you knew you were innocent.

extortion is a high possibility in my opinion. i said he may be innocent a few weeks ago.

i will post something about this shortly.

gbroshuis said...

You're right Keith in that we might be rushing to judgment, but I'm not saying that Angel is guilty. As I said, only Angel knows what truly happened. Extortion is a possibility. Murder is a possibility. But I think it is wrong to pay off a family.

It is tough to say this until you are in the situation, but if you are truly innocent, then you should let the justice system play out. I don't like the idea of paying off the family of a murdered man, whether you are guilty or not guilty. In my opinion it's morally wrong.

Richard Keith Winters said...

i agree it is morally wrong, but what if one of his friends shot the kid, and angel felt it was just to make a settlement and avoid a later civil litigation case.

it is tough to know until you are in the situation as you say, but innocent people do get sent to jail in the US. The justice system down here is way more shaky. if you can avoid the possibilty of 20 yrs in jail by making a payment...

sticky moral dilema i agree. one for a philosophy class perhaps.

in any case it seems the payment was only regarding a civil case. they are still pursuing the criminal case and he is just out on bail, thats according to the San Fran Chronicle article this morning, as well as the dominican dailies.

Michael Taylor said...

I read the same report -- civil charges dropped due to the payoff, but criminal charges remain to be prosecuted.

Different cultures deal with death in very different ways. In the middle east, "honor" payments are customary when a member of one family or clan is responsible for the death of an individual from another family or clan. The US military (funded by all of us) has made thousands of such payments for collateral-damage deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This doesn't erase the death or grief, or make it right, but simply buys some measure of peace in short-circuiting the vicious circle of eye-for-an-eye vengeance that would otherwise rule.

South of the border, bribes and payoffs are as common as breathing. That may not be right by our judicial standards, but it's their culture. As you and the others pointed out, none of us knows what happened in that bar, but given what we do know -- that young pro baseball players are high-profile individuals back home, and often targets of crime -- it's understandable that Angel would carry a gun. In any heated, booze-fueled barroom altercation, words can rapidly escalate to violence. Even if Angel pulled his gun and shot the other guy, that doesn't make it "murder." A crime of passion is rarely considered as damaging to the social fabric as a coldly calculated killing for revenge or money, and the punishment is accordingly less.

I don't know what the laws are on Angel's home turf, but it seems the payment was made to avoid a civil trial. To me, that makes it a settlement between the two parties not unlike those that are worked out every day here under our legal system. If what I read is true, he's still on the hook for the criminal charge.

Regardless of the circumstances, killing somebody is serious business. If a fair judicial proceeding decides Angel was at fault, then he must pay the appropriate price. But if the guy was killed in self-defense (assuming Angel fired the gun at all), then it's a very different situation.

I don't think anything fishy has yet happened in this case, but that doesn't mean it won't. Given the extent to which money talks here and abroad, it wouldn't surprise me if Angel gets off, regardless of his guilt or innocence. And I agree with you -- we'll never know the truth.

My hope is that he gets off for the right reasons, and then has the opportunity to tell you next season -- in person -- what really happened in that bar.

Richard Keith Winters said...

very well said micheal.

there are any number of reasons it could have happened (if he did pull the trigger at all). and manslaughter is not looked at in the same light as murder.

and payments such as this are a different matter in every culture.

i also agree that money talks. he has the best lawyers available. we´ll see what happenens.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Garrett, I agree with you that in a perfect world, Angel would not need to pay off another party.

But we're not a perfect world, as we all know.

The sad fact is that some people will shake down a wealthier person just by putting you in a bad legal position. Maybe Angel is innocent, but what if the pals of the dead guy group together a story that kind of makes sense and puts Angel in jail for the length of the trial? They know that he'll probably get off since he's innocent, but when you are put on trial, there is always the risk that the jury or judge actually believes the lies (again, assuming that is the situation, none of us know who is lying and who is not).

As a series of news articles in the San Jose Mercury showed a few years back, even our legal system can be perverted by overzealous prosecutors who lie or manipulate things in order to convict people. I think their investigation found a third of the convictions to be questionable in one way or another. One can only imagine how that might work in a country like the Dominican Republic, where people are much, much poorer in general, people could just threaten to vote guilty unless they get something under the table.

And, yeah, Angel could be paying off to get himself off a murder rap. Not much different from the U.S., some celebrities would rather pay off someone than face the justice system and particularly jail.

That's just the way the world works, unfortunately.

Now, one can be cynical and think about how bad that is, but I have to think that no matter how bad it may appear today, I have to think that it is much better than it was 200 years ago, 100 years ago, even 50 years ago. Society has improved incrementally over time and hopefully we will contiue to move ahead. And I believe that we will.

gbroshuis said...

Let me begin by saying thank you to those who have commented. I've enjoyed reading the comments. It makes for a good discussion.

We seem to be delving into cultural relativism here. We shouldn't allow that to also drive us into moral relativism. Yes, certain things are more common in other societies than our own. Yes, some of these things still pervade our own society. But this doesn't make them right.

If you've followed Nicholas Kristof's "Half the Sky" movement, you'll know that atrocities committed towards women are prevalent in many societies. We also still have prejudices towards women in our own society. We have a history of oppressing various groups. Just because these things are prevalent, does this make them right?

I know this isn't a perfect example. But it does illustrate the difference between understanding the reason for a particular behavior and deciding whether that particular behavior is right or wrong. If a person from a different culture performs a certain action which is common in his homeland, that helps us understand why the action was performed. But that doesn't mean the action is necessarily right. There are many behaviors that are common. That doesn't make all of these behaviors just.

Extortion is common in some societies. That is clearly wrong. In my opinion, paying off the family of a fallen son is wrong as well. Now, perhaps this really did simply just make the civil suit disappear. That is a different scenario than if the criminal suit disappears as well. Time will tell where this money came from and to what end.

"That's just the way the world works" doesn't work for me. I realize we don't live in a perfect world. I'm not naive. But there's no reason we can't work towards a world more just, and a bit more perfect, than the one in which we currently live. You can't do that just by accepting the status quo.

John P Slevin said...

Mr. Broshius, in comments you wrote: "...I don't like the idea of paying off the family of a murdered man, whether you are guilty or not guilty. In my opinion it's morally wrong."

That's concluding there was a "pay-off".

I'd agree with you the thing smells...but the stench comes from the fact that a man lost his life, not from the particular action of giving money to the deceased man's family.

I think you would agree there would be nothing illegitimate about extending a helping hand to a bereaved family...and we have no evidence this was anything other than that.

There IS evidence to suggest the Villalona was/is known to have been generous to people and organizations in his neighborhood.

Moreover, the deceased man's family involvement in a legal sense has been in a civil proceeding, and that now is off the table. The prosecutor decides whether to continue with a criminal case.

We can't read too much into any payment.

From the outset, I've found the very public and very anti-Villalona comments from the prosecutor to be unprofessional and illegitimate.

He's talked like it is an open and shut case. That's hardly backed up by what little we do know.

To my knowledge they have not recovered a weapon nor have they traced the ownership of any gun to Villalona. I've seen no reports yet about any autopsy filings. They have no concrete motive(s) ---did Villalona even know the deceased? had they ever had bad relationship problems, etc...

Moreover, from the Chronicle reports on the matter, at least one witness (co-owner of the bar and a self-described personal friend of Villalona) stated explicitly that Villalona didn't own a gun (the same person claims that he was sitting outside the bar, with Villalona, when a shot was heard).

From what little has been reported, from what little case seems to exist against Villalona, I think we do everyone concerned a disservice when we draw conclusions.

There simply are not enough facts to do that.

One of the impressions made by those who have written about this traces directly to your first blog entry on the matter...the impression that "all" Dominican males go about heavily armed.

I realize that you never made the claim about "all" but that has been the general presumption since you made your original post, which was picked-up and elaborated on by others.

We need to wait for some facts and until those are in and unless facts reveal otherwise we need to grant Villalona the presumption of innocence.

Surely this smells, as does the rush to judgement where Villalona has been described as a rich, spoiled, bad driving loud music playing person who therefore must have casually murdered someone...

The leaps in logic in this thing by a public which has few if any facts to go on is why there are courts of law and why prosecutors have to present facts to gain a conviction.

Can't we wait for some facts to emerge? At least, before Villalona is lynched or whatever?

By the way, you are a very good writer.

gbroshuis said...

Mr. Slevin (I'm not called Mr. Broshuis too often, but I actually kind of like it. Though it does make me feel like I'm in the Matrix or something),

You bring some very valid points. We actually agree on a lot more aspects of this than you'd believe. We shouldn't rush to judgment. A pay-off to end a civil matter is very different than a pay-off to end a criminal matter. We shouldn't stereotype individuals based on hearsay. The prosecutor has acted unprofessionally.

And we also agree that something smells funny. Hopefully the funny smell just needs a little Febreeze (sp?) and a better situation will present itself. At the time I wrote this blog, it hadn't been reported that the pay-off had been to just end the civil matter. That already alleviates some of the fishiness. But it still smells a little funny.

I don't know what will happen, and I'm not judging Villalona as guilty. Again, I really do hope that he's innocent. As you said, we need to let this play out before we tear him apart.

John P Slevin said...

Mr. Broshuis (lol, I'm still too lazy to look-up the correct spelling of your first name),

We are in agreement.

The prosecutor seems to be trying this case in public, and that often is because there really is no case.

It needs to be remembered that the prosecutor is a politician. To the extent there is official corruption in the Dominican justice system (and to the extent any payment to the family of the deceased may be suspect) it seems only logical to include the prosecutor as a main player in the rigged game.

When we contrast the consistent statements from Villalona's attorney with those of the prosecutor I think we are left with a very simple question, and it is the same one point Villalona's attorney has been making all along...when will the prosecutor present a case; ie, is there any case?

John P Slevin said...

btw, though not a lawyer I've been a freaquent defender/cross-plaintiff in such cases.

I'm gonna herein be tougher on ou Garrett (now that I know your first name and all, LOL)

And I don't mean to be TOO tough, but here goes

There is NO such thing as a successful civil case unless and until one's target is found guilty.

Here, it seems the family has got a payment, and a righteous amount (considering circumstances of the family as reported in the Chronicle stories if nowhere else) and who the hell could object to that?

Things are what they are, not what we'd like them to be, and I think people ought not to judge other people so quickly as has been done in this case and which seems to be the whole operandi of people these days, and here too, yes, on this blog.

There is NOTHING "immoral" about taking money from another as payment for ANYTHING...Not PER SE?

Or, can you understand English and/or Latin?

The thing is, EVERYONE with a keyboard weighs in right away, and DAMN NEAR ALL HAVE NO CLUE WHAT IS WHAT.

The original post also was CLUELESS.

The original post by Garret stated, didn't suggest, STATED that a payment from Angel's side to the side of the suffering family was "immoral".

WHY?

WHY...WHY...WHY

Well, Garrett no doubt watches CNN and FOX and other worthy sources for ALL his intake of news and info.

Oh, and reads blogs besides.

Point is, morality isn't found therein.

I NEVER would besmirch a person or persons unknown to me from an account I got from a Wolf Blitzer, etc.

NEVER.

Garret did just that here with the pertinent post.

He READ that the judge "dismissed" charges and then he CREATED the "fact" that the family took a "pay-off"....

WORSE, he stated it as someone who KNOWS Angel, WORSE still, as a teammnate.

ABSOLUTE and total BS.

John P Slevin said...

(CONTINUED FROM ABOVE)

And, one SHOULD NOT need subsequent news reports to get the facts straight, as Garret has state here was the case.

Frankly, one shouldn't speak up, ESPECIALLY when that speech SLANDERS others.

One should keep SILENT until one knows something about which one speaks....more importantly, when one is calling, AS WAS GARRET, for the continued incarceration of his "friend", "teammate", etc.

EVERYONE who knows ANYTHING about litigation, about the differences between civil and criminal litigation would have had questions about the original news stories posted about what Garrett characterized as a "pay-off".

NOT Garret, but Garret has a blog, so, Garret SPEAKS.

RIGHT?

Notice Garrett ALONE used that perjorative term, that term "pay-off". Garret invoked the matter of morality, found his "friend" his "teammate" guilty when NOT EVEN CHARGED as such.

I wouldn't use that term.

And, because I KNOW civil and criminal litigation, and the Major DIFFERENCES, I SURE AS HELL WOULND'T NEED SUBSEQUENT NEWS REPORTS TO SET ME STRAIGHT ON WHAT I PREVIOUSLY POSTED.

I simply wouldn't falsely pontificate on what Garret Falsely Pontificated upon throughout his original post here.

Again, Garret, I like your stuff, but I gotta ask, so, why so tough on a teammate? A friend?

Why is Angel GUILTY UNLESS PROVEN INNOCENT instead of the other way around?.

AND, it is that simple...

O

John P Slevin said...

n this blog, in your words, you've accepted as FACT that he shot someone

You've accepted AS FACT that he paid off the surviving victims

ETC...

WHY NOT learn something before you speak?

After all, they guy you profess as friend is on trial for his very freedom?

How about a LITTLE, just the SMALLEST amount of heart before the IRON HAND OF RETRIBUTION?

There, to me, seems to be NO evidence to convict, unless one has the VERY LOOSE AND VERY PROSECUTOR FRIENDLY STANDARDS PRACTICED HERE, on Garrett's blog...NOT ONLY ON YOUR BLOG BUT IN THE WORDS OF TEAMMATE GARRETT.

THINK ABOUT IT.

THINK about that Garett, you, and EVERYONE WHO IS PROSECUTING HIM (that's one sad character there in the DR...you and that TWIT...NO evidence, no case, no NOTHING...but, Angel's guilty, right?)

GUESS WHO THE PROSECUTOR NAMES FIRST AND FOREMOST?
You have pointed the finger at your self=professed friend and teammate here on this blog.

ALSO, you've managed to implicate ALL Dominican males as gun toting wildheads.
Are you prepared to back that up now with actual testimony?
Cause, guy, you haven't actually retracted anything.

I posted originally because you didn't have a clue about what you posted about what you call "pay-offs".

You still don't get it.

Here's my guess...after long suffering at this INSTANT DEMONIZATION, Angel is released, able to oncve again practice a life OUTSIDE bars (hopelessly hobbled, of course, by the SHIT which as been surmised about him, much of it written FIRST by you).

COMPOUNDED by you here with your latest post.

I freely state they have no case against him ONLY because they haven't presented such a case.

You, who FREELY admit you had no CLUE as to the difference between a civil case and a criminal case already, here, have BLASTED your "friend" and "teammate" for making "payoffs".

So, which is it?

JUSTICE prevails? Or, do you want to get the inspiration for your next uninformed blog posting whenever next you see something via Wolf Blitzer?

OR, do you actually want to learn something about the FACTS here os simply SHUT UP ABOUT IT?

IT"S REALLY EASY, cause from my vantage point very few have got it right yet.

For a hint of who I think has it right, read ANY statement made by Mr. Villalona's attorney.

I want to point out something else to you.

IT is NOT a question of quilty or innocent. It's a question of guilty or NOT GUILTY.

A bright guy like you ought to look up the distinction, read it, learn about it, then comment how you STUPIDLY thought it could be something like GUILT or INNOCENCE cause this latter DOES NOT EXIST IN THE LAW.

You don[t think so? Try going before ANY judge and pleading INNOCENT.

JUST TRY IT. AND, when you do, I'd love to be there for the laugh.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING.

Do you get it? In case you don't what I want you to understand is that your writing so far is based on IGnORANCE of facts, on BIGOTRY in the EXTREME and on a WILLFUL presumption that your readers will tolerate same.

I won't.

Learn something about the case or please, just SHUT UP ABOUT IT, ALRIGHT?

Geno Espineli Fan said...

Chill out slevin! GB was just stating his opinion just as much as you are. Sorry but we all cant be as wise as athe all-mighty Slevin! You are making some pretty mighty acusations, crackpot.

thehondohurricane said...

I understand the difference between a Civil Case and a Criminal Case or thought I did. But, here's my dilemma. If Angel has paid off the victim's family, isn't that suggesting he's guilty of something?

Or is it simply cheaper to buy the family off now rather then later?

Kelly said...

WOW - "Mr." Slevin sounds like he's got some serious issues here. He goes from a somewhat friendly, but know-it-all guy, then turns into this maniac who obviously loves to ramble on and on and on and on. Garrett's blog was not only based on what he had heard, but info. that was in the paper and other sources as well. It's a blog for cryin' out loud - which you did quite a lot of. I think maybe you should get a life or something. Crazy!

thehondohurricane said...

Yeah, I forgot to mention Mr Slevin in my previous post. Slevin... get a life, get lost, or get sober.

aj said...

Well said GEF, Hondo and kelly. The point of a blog is to write one's personal thoughts and opinions about things. Not to be torn to shreds for stating said opinions.
Garrett's words were based on what he heard and read. He wasn't stating that what he said was fact. It was his interpretation of the information that was out there at that time. Nothing more and nothing less.
I suggest to those who feel that they know more about everything than anyone else to find their own outlet to express their own thoughts about such topics. I would bet that Garrett is far from the only person who has these very feelings about this subject, yet he is the only one getting annihiliated for expressing them. There is no condemnation in his words, yet there is plenty being fired back at him. I was surprised to see what started out as an intelligent discussion disintegrate into such a personal attack. Letting the guest speak their mind and leave is probably the best way to go, because who wants to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person anyway?
And Garrett, for what it's worth, I love your writing. It's such an insight into everything about MiLB, letting us on the outside peek into windows we otherwise wouldn't get a chance to. And I respect your thoughts and opinions (as I do of everyone as long as it is kept calm and non-accusatory,) whether they differ from my own or not. You have the right to say what you think, and you shouldn't have to have people come to YOUR blog and rip you apart for it.
People just need to chillax. :)

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