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Police Investigating Angels' Washburn

Jurisprudence: Female accuses 28-year-old pitcher of sexual assault. He has not been charged or arrested.

September 11, 2002|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jarrod Washburn, the ace of the Angels' pitching staff, is under investigation for alleged sexual assault, Anaheim police said Tuesday.

Washburn has not been charged or arrested. The Orange County district attorney's office is expected to receive the results of the investigation shortly and then decide whether to file charges.

Sgt. Rick Martinez, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department, said the investigation began Sept. 1, when a female approached the department and made the accusation against Washburn, and said the probe was "very close to a conclusion." Martinez said he could not provide details, including the age of the accuser. KABC-TV, using an unidentified source, said the female is 16 years old.

"These allegations are baseless and meritless," said Scott Boras, the agent for Washburn.

Washburn, 28, left the team Tuesday afternoon to be with his family. The Angels were uncertain when he would return.

"I can't believe it's true," one Angel player said. "But it would be terrible timing if it is."

The investigation comes during the final month of an otherwise magical season, with the Angels in position to advance to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years.

The Angels led the American League West in August 1997, when Tony Phillips was arrested and charged with felony cocaine possession. Phillips, like Washburn considered a team leader, returned to the team after 10 days. But the Angels lost 21 of 30 games following his arrest and fell out of first place for good. Phillips ultimately pleaded guilty; as a first-time offender, the charge was dismissed after Phillips completed drug counseling and remained drug-free for one year.

Closer Troy Percival, part of the 1997 team, said this year's Angels would not fall apart and vowed they would make the playoffs. The Angels entered play Tuesday with a four-game lead in the wild-card standings.

"We have no excuses for not going out and competing at the highest level," Percival said. "We're all focused on one goal.

"We're this close to the playoffs. We're going to get there."

Outfielder Tim Salmon, also a member of the 1997 team, said this year's Angels would not let the investigation of Washburn divert their attention from the pennant race.

"He's a teammate and we stand behind him," Salmon said. "But, from our standpoint, we've got business to do. We've got the kind of players who I don't think will be distracted."

Boras said Washburn would be cleared of the allegations and said the pitcher had not retained a defense attorney.

General Manager Bill Stoneman said the Angels were cooperating with the investigation and had no plans to suspend Washburn or place him on leave pending the outcome of the probe.

Disney Chairman Michael Eisner is aware of the investigation, Angel spokesman Tim Mead said. In the Phillips case, Disney suspended him, in accordance with company policy but in violation of the labor agreement between players and owners. An arbitrator overturned the suspension and forced the Angels to reinstate Phillips.

Disney spokesman John Spelich would not comment on the investigation. If a Disney employee is arrested, he said, the company takes into account the nature of the charge and the circumstances involved before deciding what action to take, including whether to put the employee on leave.

Washburn has been married for three years and has one son. He has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the league this season, with a 17-5 record and 3.32 earned-run average.

He has started two games since the investigation began and won both. His victory Sunday at Baltimore made him the first Angel pitcher to win 17 games since 1991.

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Times staff writers David Haldane, Ross Newhan and Richard Verrier contributed to this report.

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