“It was really difficult to watch.”
But in the cold light and dispassionate environment of an Old City Hall courtroom, the 23-year-old in the navy blue suit heard his assault charge withdrawn by the Crown.
He admitted nothing. The charge was withdrawn in lieu of the peace bond. In the court of public opinion, however, the once beloved pitcher has already been convicted and crucified.
And traded. Though the Jays will say, as Atkins repeated, that it was a good baseball deal for Toronto. As indeed a closer swap for Ken Giles has worked out fine on both ends of the trade, the Jays also receiving two other bullpen arms.
Except Osuna was hatched and nurtured as a Blue Jays heirloom, member of the franchise family since his teenage years. When he needed them most, they did not have his back. PR disaster, culturally non-negotiable. In the current climate, who’s going to stand by a young man alleged to have hit a woman, mother to his child?
This was one seriously messed up guy, an ATM for his family, subject to immense stresses, to the point where last year he stepped aside briefly, admitting to reporters that he didn’t feel right in the head; all confused and muddled. Only on the mound did that disorientation melt away.
Obviously, none of this emotional disorder excuses alleged violence or domestic abuse. But no story is simple and straightforward, despite the braying of the mob and the bellowing from the crowd on Monday evening when Osuna emerged from the opposition bullpen in the ninth inning, caterwauling that continued as he turned his back and crossed himself before every pitch made. Go ahead and say it was justified. But the howlers sounded very much like the anti-Hillary Clinton “Lock Her Up! Lock Her Up!” beasties at Donald Trump rallies during the election campaign.
Not Toronto’s headache anymore, in any event. On July 31, non-waiver trade deadline, Osuna got his arse kicked all the way to Houston, reigning world champions. There are worse fates in life.
We’re likely never to know exactly what happened on May 8, 2018, between Osuna and his now-ex-girlfriend, Alejandra Roman Cota, mother to their 3-year-old son. A source told the Star an incident that allegedly began with pushing and shoving proceeded from Osuna’s apartment at a downtown building to the lobby and that it was the concierge who summoned police. Alcohol may have been a factor.
Only the scantest of details have been made public, revisited Tuesday afternoon by Crown attorney Catherine Mullaly.
Roman Cota, court heard, had been visiting Toronto with their child, staying with Osuna. The report of an alleged domestic disturbance was investigated by police from 14 Division. Osuna was charged with a single count of assault and a disturbing photograph of him, sitting on a cot in his cell that night, was leaked to Global TV.
Osuna had never appeared in court in several earlier remand procedures. He was, however, compelled to be present for the resolution which defence lawyer Domenic Basile insisted throughout had been under negotiation with the Crown. In the interim, the matter was investigated by Major League Baseball, Osuna smacked with a 75-game suspension, third longest ever handed for breach of domestic abuse policy by the lords of baseball. Osuna accepted the penalty without a fight through the players’ union, purportedly so that he could resume playing this season. An appeal could have stretched into 2019.
Alleged victim Roman Cota left Toronto almost immediately after the incident, returning to Mexico. She has never come back to Canada.
Police had spoken to her by phone, though.
“During that conversation, Ms. Roman Cota advised us that she wished to resume contact and parenting responsibilities with Mr. Osuna,” Mullaly told Ontario Court Judge Melvyn Green. “She hoped this case would be concluded quickly so that could happen.
“She had no fear for her safety. She advised that she would not return to Toronto to testify if a trial date was set. She would not testify at a trial on that charge.”
No co-operative complainant, no case.
The Crown couldn’t compel her appearance by seeking a subpoena that could not be enforced in a foreign jurisdiction. Further, Roman Cota’s wishes are of utmost importance. There is a child involved, a fractured family that needs to find a way to coexist peaceably. You can’t browbeat an alleged victim into testifying.
“I have reviewed the available admissible evidence in this case and have come to the determination that the Crown does not have a reasonable prospect of conviction on this charge, absent her testimony,” said Mullaly.
The charge was therefore withdrawn. Crown and defence agreed, instead, on a peace bond with a one-year shelf-life — essentially, to be of good behaviour with certain basic conditions attached, primarily no contact with the alleged victim except with written consent.
Roman Cota is living with her family. Osuna returns to Mexico in the off-season.
Basile emphasized, as he had throughout this legal process, that Osuna was an innocent man until proven otherwise, should it have gone to trial, which Osuna was prepared to do had there been no peace bond resolution.
“I wish to make clear there is no admission of criminal or civil responsibility by Mr. Osuna,” Basile told court.
“My client’s position from the outset was that he would not plead.”
Later in the afternoon, Osuna released this statement:
“I am pleased and relieved by today’s court decision. Now I can begin to put these allegations behind me and focus on baseball. I want to thank my family, teammates and fans for believing in me. I am grateful to the Astros for proving me with the opportunity to play baseball and compete for a World Series championship.
“I will make no further comment about this matter, as I plan on moving past this and look only to the future.”
The Astros, who were widely admonished for taking Osuna, released a statement as well:
“Today, the Ontario Court of Justice withdrew the assault charge against Roberto Osuna. The Houston Astros look forward to Roberto continuing his commitment to be a productive and caring part of our community.
“The Astros remain committed to increase our support regarding the issues of domestic violence and abuse of any kind. We have engaged with a number of local, state and national organizations — and we look forward to working with them in the short term and over the long term.”
Osuna, as court heard, has completed counselling mandated by MLB and continues to see a privately engaged psychotherapist.
At the end of the 20-minute procedure, Judge Green sent Osuna on his way with encouraging words:
“I’m confident you will comply. I wish only the best for all parties.”
Then Roberto Osuna left for the ballpark that is no longer home, no longer a refuge from turmoil, and no longer where the heart lies.
A second consecutive appearance in the ninth inning for Houston, a second consecutive night of loud booing, a second consecutive save for Osuna against Toronto.
In the visitor’s clubhouse afterwards, Osuna was asked if he’d been hurt by the jeers.
“No. I came into the game and I did what I had to do. It didn’t affect me.”
OK, but when did you start speaking through a Spanish interpreter?
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno