- Joined ESPN in June 2003
- Winner: Peabody Award 2013; 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award/Investigative Video Reporting
- Reports on breaking news, investigative stories and human interest stories.
Investigators from Major League Baseball have questioned a woman who said free agent Yasiel Puig sexually assaulted her in a Staples Center restroom, but they have taken no further action because of her desire to remain anonymous and are waiting for more evidence of her accusation, an MLB source told ESPN.
With baseball season starting in a few weeks, Puig, 30, remains unemployed at least in part because of the allegations, according to a source in the team’s front office.
The woman, identified only as Jane Roe in federal court documents, sued Puig last October. She claims the former Dodgers outfielder followed her to the bathroom after a Lakers game in October 2018, held her with one hand to prevent her from leaving, grabbed her and masturbated in front of her eyes.
The woman didn’t press charges. Puig has not been charged with a crime. He refutes the allegations in the complaint, which also asks the judge to dismiss the case.
A number of groups that reportedly expressed interest in Puig this spring took those statements into account in their decision.
No one wants a headache, a source told ESPN.
Puig’s attorney declined to comment on the lawsuit or make Puig available for comment. His agent, Rachel Luba, also declined to comment.
In November, a Major League Baseball lawyer interviewed the woman who sued Puig and gave her a list of available resources for sexual assault victims, the woman’s lawyer, Taylor Rayfield, told ESPN.
Rayfield said that after speaking with his client in November, a Major League Baseball lawyer told him that the league could not investigate the case further because the woman refused to give her name.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred can punish players for domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, and has done so more than a dozen times since the league adopted the new policy in 2015.
They claim to have a personal code of conduct. Well, what could be more disturbing than what happened here? Rayfield said, adding: I want them to take on the players and hold them accountable by not allowing people in their organizations to commit sexual and physical abuse.
A source at MLB confirmed that the investigator spoke with the woman. The source also said Puig was not questioned about the allegations because the MLB normally only addresses a player after a thorough investigation. The case remains open, and a source said Baraccalaureate investigators are waiting to see what details emerge from the trial.
In an interview with ESPN, the woman recounted her encounter with Puig.
ESPN does not typically disclose names of people involved in sexual violence unless they choose to make their names public. The 32-year-old Californian told ESPN that she has a company that puts her in touch with various professional athletes. She asked Jane to come by for an interview.
Jane says she first met Puig in the Chairman’s Room, a space under the bleachers on the south side of the Staples Center, open only to fans with floor seating and a short list of VIPs and celebrities who regularly attend Lakers games. Jane went to the game with two other people, a friend and a fiancé.
She stated that she had never met Puig and did not recognize him when he approached her at halftime, made a comment about the hat she was wearing and struck up a conversation.
He was just trying to contact me. He was flirting, she said.
A few minutes later, according to Jane, Puig, who was on the other side of the room at the time, gestured to her and pointed two fingers at her eyes and then at her, as if to say, I’m looking at you. She says she considered the interaction harmless flirting.
After the game, Jane went to the bathroom, where she said Puig followed her and physically restrained her by holding her forearm. The lawsuit alleges that Puig tried to remove her clothing, touched her, exposed himself and then masturbated in front of her.
Later that night, Puig sent Jane a text message saying: Personally, between me and myself [sic], everything that happens, no one is allowed to know, according to the text message transcripts that are in the court documents. According to her, it was the first of several text messages Puig sent in the following days trying to meet Jane in private.
Jane said she didn’t remember exactly when she had given Puig her phone number, but that it wasn’t unusual for her, given her job.
According to her lawyer, she never went to the police, mainly because she tried to forget the incident. Jane says she only told her fiancé and her younger brother about what happened to her.
Jane’s brother told ESPN that he remembered getting a phone call that night or the next day and was surprised to hear that his sister was upset. First he said she only gave partial details.
It’s her: Yes, he was obsessed with me and followed me into the bathroom. I thought it was a super creepy guy trying to get to her, Jane’s brother said.
He said he remembered his sister describing Puig as intimidating and aggressive, and that Jane was very scared, but he said Jane never went so far as to describe a sexual assault.
It wasn’t until the lawsuit was filed in October, he says, and then in the media, particularly in the Los Angeles area, that his brother became aware of the full extent of the allegations.
In the weeks and months following the alleged incident at the Staples Center, Jane said she felt like a nightmare was playing out in her head every day. She said the encounter made her more irritable and quick-tempered, which her brother also claims to have noticed, and put more strain on her relationship with her fiancé. Jane also reported that she had lost her sense of personal security.
Honestly, I wouldn’t go to the bathroom in public places for fear of someone following me. And when you start thinking about these things, it changes your whole world. … If you do, it’s like you’re paranoid wherever you go.
In January, Puig’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Jane had not met her legal obligation to prove that anonymity was acceptable. This anonymity will only be granted in rare cases, when the need for anonymity outweighs the prejudice to the accused and the right to a public trial.
Puig’s attorneys argue that by leaving Jane anonymous her allegations are falsely given credence, and that the result of all this testimony is to convict Mr. Puig in the court of public opinion before Mr. Puig has even had a chance to defend himself.
Rayfield subsequently filed court documents describing the attempts to discover his client’s identity as nothing more than a barely veiled attempt by defendant Puig to humiliate, harass, and punish [Jane]…. humiliate, harass, and punish her in the hope that she would drop her lawsuit against him.
I think it’s a tactic to scare people, Jane said. I feel like a target. I feel like a victim again, and I don’t understand why anyone would do that.
According to Scott Berkowitz, president of the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network, the risk of becoming public knowledge is a major deterrent for survivors. In focus groups and surveys, anonymity is always at the top of victims’ list of concerns, he said.
While Jane’s legal battle continues, Puig remains unemployed.
Puig created a furor with the Los Angeles Dodgers in June 2013, where he led the league with a .436 batting average and was named National League Player of the Month.
Puig was arrested twice in 2013 for reckless driving and the MLB investigated him in 2015 after he got into an altercation with a bouncer and was accused of pushing his sister in a Miami bar. No charges were filed and he was not sanctioned.
He last wore a major league jersey in 2019, when he appeared in 100 games for the Cincinnati Reds. Puig played 49 games for the Cleveland Indians after the offseason trade. He did not play at all in the 2020 season shortened by lockouts, except for five games in the Dominican Winter League. A positive KOVID-19 test in July put his possible deal with the Atlanta Braves in doubt.
A federal judge in California is considering a motion to dismiss and the issue of Jane’s anonymity. Lawyers for both sides said they did not know when the judge would make his decision. Jane said her decision to sue Puig was partly motivated by a desire to hold Puig accountable.
I felt like he was predatory towards me, and someone with that kind of attitude might do that to someone else. Frankly, I don’t want him to be able to do that with anyone else. After all, that’s what I want.
If you have been sexually assaulted, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or visit https://www.rainn.org, the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network.
ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn contributed to this report.