There was a trial, still ongoing, in a Federal court in Miami last week, where sports agent Bartolo Hernandez and baseball trainer Julio Estrada were tried before a jury for alien smuggling and conspiracy. Prosecutors say they operated a ring that took Cuban players from the Castros’ island to other countries where they could established residency and sign lucrative Major League Baseball contracts. The big surprise in the trial came when star Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu told a Miami federal jury Wednesday how he ate his fake passport while flying to the U.S. to cover up the fact that he was arriving illegally as a prime participant in the smuggling operation.
Abreu said he ordered a beer on an Air France flight from Haiti to Miami and used it to wash down the section of his passport showing a false name with his photo. The reason the unique meal was urgent? Money. Abreu was about to miss an October 2013 deadline that would forfeit the $68 million agreement he had in place withe White Sox.
“If I had not been there on that particular day, the deadline, then the contract would not be executed and would no longer be valid,” Abreu told jurors. “We had to be in Chicago to sign the contract.”
Ah. Then that’s all right, then!
Abreu the was American League Rookie of the Year in 2014. He testified under a grant of limited immunity, meaning he wouldn’t be prosecuted if he told the truth on the witness stand. Jurors learned that the slugger got the fake passport in Haiti, where he and his family had escaped to from Cuba by speedboat in August 2013. One of the associates of Hernandez and Estrada—naturally, the smugglers got a cut of Abreu’s contract—obtained the fake passport and booked the Air France flight, telling the ballplayer to destroy the document on the plane. .
He did not tell him to eat it.
When Abreu arrived in Miami, the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy recently rescinded President Barack Obama allowed him to remain in the U.S., though he had reached American soil without travel documents. That’s right: no documents were OK. Fake documents were not.
Abreu, who hit 25 home runs and drove in 100 runs last season, was given time off from White Sox spring training camp in Arizona to testify in Miami. Asks Jonathan Turley (full disclosure for the professor: he’s Cubs fan) ,”…[R]egardless of his immunity, [Abreu] has admitted to criminal conduct in using the illegal passport obtained in Haiti. Everyone else was indicted, including his main facilitator…So he gets to just keep playing baseball in the major leagues?”
I share Turley’s discomfort with this. If the Trump administration is going to deport illegal immigrants for old DUI charges, why should Abreu be treated more leniently for participating in a smuggling ring? Because he’s a rich baseball player? We deport the poor illegal immigrants who break laws, but not the famous rich ones?
If the program wants to demonstrate integrity, it should send Abreu back to Haiti and let him apply for a visa to play ball.
They should also remind him not to eat it.
Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur