Francisco Rodriguez returns to court

Updated: September 22, 2010, 8:07 PM ET
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez surrendered to authorities Wednesday morning and was charged with criminal contempt for the text messages he sent his girlfriend in violation of a court order of protection.

Rodriguez was arraigned in Queens County Criminal Court at 11:37 a.m. ET in front of Judge Ira H. Margulis. The charge carries a maximum one-year sentence, and Margulis issued an additional order of protection for Daian Pena, who is the mother of his twins.

Rodriguez's attorney, Christopher Booth, said his client has not seen the children since his initial Sept. 7 court date.

Rodriguez, who was wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans Wednesday, was freed on a $7,500 bond and ordered to return to court on Oct. 7.

"An order of protection is a mandate of the Court that provides additional legal protection under the law for victims and witnesses," Queens district attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement. "It is not simply a piece of paper. When a defendant willfully violates a provision of a protective order -- such as initiating communication with a protected party -- he will be held accountable for his actions and charged with criminal contempt."

The 28-year-old reliever had been accused of grabbing Pena's father, 53-year-old Carlos Pena, hauling him into a tunnel near the family lounge beneath the team's new ballpark and hitting him in the face after a game Aug. 11.

Rodriguez was told to keep away from Carlos Pena and his daughter. But a week after he appeared in court, he sent her two text messages and kept going, sending 56 in all. Assistant District Attorney Scott Kessler said Rodriguez understood he wasn't supposed to contact her, and he mentioned a previous case where he was accused of assaulting her in Venezuela.

"He's not naive or loving. He's manipulative and controlling," Kessler said.

Pena never responded to the messages, which included 17 sent in one day alone, Kessler said.

The messages got progressively angrier. "Thank you for sinking me turning your back, take good care of my children ... and now I see that your were with me because of the money to see that your family ..." he wrote in the final message Aug. 23, according to Kessler.

Rodriguez could be jailed if he has any further communication with Pena. The restraining order is in place for six months.

Booth said of the latest charges: "The district attorney took another opportunity to put Mr. Rodriguez in jail."

The four-time All-Star has agreed to undergo anger-management counseling.

Kessler had asked for bail to be set at $25,000. He said that Rodriguez had previously violated an order of protection issued in Venezuela in 2005, stemming from an incident in which Rodriguez allegedly assaulted Pena. Kessler said Pena was hospitalized after the incident.

Rodriguez played for the Angels in 2005, and the team said the news came as a surprise.

"We were not aware of anything like that. Today was the first we heard of that situation," Angels VP for communications Tim Mead said.

In the courtroom, Booth said: "We're not here to litigate that matter."

Outside of court, Booth characterized the incident as "dated."

"The 2005 incident, I have no comment on other than to say it is dated, it is old and there is no comparison between the Venezuelan [justice] system and our own," Booth said.

The Mets declined comment when asked if they were aware of the 2005 incident in Venezuela.

"It's an ongoing criminal investigation. We're referring all questions to the district attorney's office," a team spokesman said.

After his initial September arrest, Rodriguez was put on the disqualified list by the Mets, costing him $3 million of his $11.5 million salary this year. He was also put on the restricted list for two days immediately after the incident. He returned but pitched in one game before it was revealed he had injured his hand in the fight and that he required surgery.

The Mets also converted Rodriguez's contract to non-guaranteed, giving the team the ability to release the reliever in the early part of spring training next year for 30 days' termination pay.

The players' union filed a grievance against the Mets and the commissioner's office protesting how the team has handled the Rodriguez case. The Major League Baseball Players Association challenged the decision to place the right-handed closer on the disqualified list and the Mets' effort to convert his contract.

A union source told ESPNNewYork.com last week that Rodriguez's ongoing court proceedings would not affect the timing of the hearings between the MLBPA and the Mets.

As he left the courthouse Wednesday, Rodriguez was asked repeatedly if he plans to play for the Mets in 2011, but he declined to comment as he got into a black SUV and departed.

His lawyer said he wants to stay, however.

"He wants to play with the Mets," Booth said. "He wants to stay with the Mets and he wants to help them win a world championship."

As for whether he will be ready to pitch, Booth said: "He had surgery. Everything is going well... We think he is going to heal completely."

Although negotiations have taken place between lawyers for both parties, nothing has been resolved.

"What I can say is that Mr. Rodriguez will not allow this situation to turn into somebody's meal ticket for the rest of their lives, so to the extent that anyone is thinking that's the case, that's not going to happen," Booth said.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Ian Begley

ESPN New York Writer

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