Report: Urbina's mother alleges she was extorted

Updated: December 16, 2005, 2:33 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Ugueth Urbina's mother has alleged that someone associated with the judiciary in her son's attempted murder case in Venezuela offered to set him free in exchange for U.S. currency.

"The day he was held, this person called me and told me that he could help my son gain his freedom in exchange for money," Maura Villareal told the Venezuela Daily Journal, without divulging how much money was requested.

"Everybody wants a piece of the action for the freedom of my son ... in this case there are four people charged, and the only one in jail is my son because he has money," Villareal told the newspaper.

On Friday, a Venezuelan tribunal decided Urbina must remain in jail until his trial on attempted murder charges after prosecutors formally presented their evidence. The judge overseeing the case has yet to set a trial date.

The 31-year-old pitcher is accused of joining a group of men in attacking and injuring five workers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them at his family's ranch about 25 miles south of Caracas on Oct. 16. Urbina has repeatedly denied he had anything to do with the violence, saying he was sleeping at the time of the attack. Police said the incident began in a dispute over a handgun.

In an interview last week with ESPN from his jail cell, Urbina said he also believes he's being extorted for money. Now, if convicted of the attack, Urbina could face 10 years in a Venezuelan prison.

"I love my country, but here, there are people that love money," Urbina told ESPN in an exclusive interview from his jail cell. "What do they gain from this? They say that it was me so that they can get money, you understand? These are people that live simply, let's say. So by them saying it was me, they could somehow gain and take money from all of this."

He added: "I'm trying to find a solution to this problem and clear my name as much as possible so that people can see I had nothing to do with this problem."

But his arrest, says one of his accusers, is not an elaborate extortion plot.

"What we want is justice, for him to pay with jail time," said Ricardo Osal, who needed 300 stitches to close wounds on his back and another 150 to repair severed tendons in his hands. "We're not looking for any type of financial arrangement. Nothing that has anything to do with money. We don't want them to offer us any money and we're not asking them for any money."

Urbina's attorney, Jose Luis Tamayo, argued in the local El Nacional newspaper on Thursday that his client should be immediately released, and objected to the circumstances related to his arrest.

"They detained him without evidence," Tamayo was quoted as saying.

Tamayo has said Urbina surprised the workers by showing up at the ranch that night while they were bathing in a pool without permission. He said the pitcher spoke sharply to them, but later left and went to sleep.

Urbina's family has been the target of thieves and kidnappers before. In an 11-year major league career, Urbina has made more than $25 million in salary. Drug lords tried to extort $6 million of it with his mother's kidnapping. A decade before, his father was murdered while fending off a robbery attack.

It was the second violent incident in a little more than a year for the Urbina family. Urbina's mother was kidnapped by drug traffickers in September 2004 and held for a $6 million ransom; she was rescued five months later in a mountainous zone in southern Venezuela.

Urbina has a career 44-49 record with 237 saves and a 3.45 ERA.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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