Former Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig will no longer plead guilty to a charge of lying to federal agents during their investigation of an illegal sports betting ring.
“I want to clear my name,” Puig said in a statement Wednesday. “I never should have agreed to plead guilty to a crime I did not commit.”
Puig’s attorney explained in the statement that new evidence prompted his change in plea to not guilty.
Lawyer concerned about allegations
However, the exact nature of that evidence is unclear.
“At the time of his January 2022 interview, Mr. Puig, who has a third-grade education, had untreated mental health issues, and did not have his own interpreter or criminal legal counsel with him,” Keri Axel said.
“We had reviewed the evidence, including significant new information, and have serious concerns about the allegations made against Yasiel.”
Puig had agreed to a guilty plea deal
In mid-November, Puig had agreed to a deal to plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal agents.
That crime carries of a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
He was eligible for probation under the terms of the deal. However, he will fight the charge.
Civil rights attorney Lawrence Middleton will consult for Puig’s legal team.
Details of Puig’s connection to sports betting
According to the US Justice Department, Puig ran up $282,900 in gambling debts to Wayne Joseph Nix’s illegal enterprise by June 2019.
There was a dispute over the balance owed. However, Puig paid Nix $200,000, and was allowed to bet again.
From July 4, 2019, to Sept. 29, 2019, Puig placed 899 additional bets on tennis, football and basketball games through Nix-controlled sports gambling websites.
Nix pleaded guilty on April 11 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal sports gambling business and one count of filing a false tax return. His sentencing hearing is slated for March 8, 2023.