K-Rod Closes On Plea Deal in Assault Case, Avoids Jail

Mets ace headed for anger management

Mets ace Francisco Rodriguez closed on a sweetheart deal in court Friday morning, agreeing to plead guilty to attempted assault -- a misdemeanor -- and two counts of disorderly conduct as part of a plea to avoid jail time after he was accused of attacking his girlfriend's father at Citi Field.

According to the deal signed Friday, Rodriguez is required to enroll in a three-part 52-session batterer intervention anger-management program. The program is broken down into three parts, the first of which he must complete by February 14th.

As part of the deal, Rodriguez must pay a $1,000 fine and reimburse the man he was charged with punching, 53-year-old Carlos Pena, for medical costs, which tally about $14,000.

The 28-year-old reliever was accused of grabbing Pena, hauling him into a tunnel near the family lounge at the ballpark and hitting him in the face after a game Aug. 11.    

Previously, Rodriguez was charged with criminal contempt for violating a restraining order by sending his girlfriend, Daian Pena, dozens of text messages after the incident. Those alleged violations were wrapped into the plea deal under the disorderly conduct charges.

The order of protection, which went into effect after the incident, will remain in effect for two years, the judge said, underscoring the seriousness of the instruction.

"You must stay away from them, do you understand?" Judge Mary O'Donoghue said.

"Yes," Rodriguez replied.

The plea affords Rodriguez an anger-management program in lieu of jail, where a conviction on the initially filed higher assault charge, plus the text-related criminal contempt charges, would've put him for two years or more. If he fails to complete the program, he will be sentenced to four months behind bars, which is the sentence usually imposed upon defendants who plead guilty to the charges Rodriguez did.

The source likened the deal to that given to Steven Slater, the emergency chute-sliding JetBlue flight attendant who ascended to national fame when he grabbed two beers and jumped.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown believes Rodriguez qualifies for the alternative-sentencing program as a first-time offender who is willing to accept treatment.

"Mr. Rodriguez has acknowledged that he has an anger-management problem that he's prepared to address for the sake of his family and himself," Brown said. "I think it's the right disposition for this case."

Wearing jeans and a black shirt, K-Rod acknowledged in court that he is not a United States citizen. When the judge asked him if he still wanted to plead guilty knowing there could be consequences related to his lack of citizenship, he said yes.

But the pitcher, who had no friends or family flanking him in court, didn't say much else at the proceeding. A judge asked if he had any comment prior to the ruling; he said nothing.

After the hearing, Rodriguez literally ran, NBCNewYork reporters hot on his heels, out of the courtroom without commenting and was quickly escorted away by a waiting Lincoln Navigator.

K-Rod's attorney Christopher Booth said his client was pleased to put the incident behind him.

"He's looking forward to the 2011 season and helping the Mets ... He's very grateful for putting this incident behind him," Booth said. "He's very remorseful about what happened. It's been a huge toll on him personally, professionally and financially."

K-Rod apparently suffered an injury in the August incident, but his lawyer said he's healing well and expects to play ball next year. In fact, he's already been playing -- for a winter league in Venezuela.

Asked whether Major League Baseball and the Mets are comfortable having Rodriguez return to the team, Booth said yes.

"He's the closer," the attorney quoted the new manager as saying.

Booth also said he didn't believe any immigration-related repercussions would stem from the plea.

As far as how K-Rod will fit the required anger-management classes into his busy baseball schedule, the courts made it easy. Rodriguez will complete his first 14 classes in Venezuela, where he's been playing ball, and his second 14 in Florida, where the Mets report for spring training. He'll finish the remaining 24 -- both individual and group -- sessions in New York City when the season starts.

Asked how his office would respond to outsiders who question whether the District Attorney bent over backwards to accommodate Rodriguez by arranging his counseling to around his baseball schedule, Brown reminded reporters that the baseball star was paying for the program out of his own pocket. 

He also said the office had made similar accommodations in the past for other out-of-state defendants.

The proceeding went smoothly but for one small incident. When K-Rod signed the agreement, the judge had to send it back because he didn't press hard enough on the pen.

There was another light moment when O'Donoghue was correcting typos in the plea agreement, changing the word "batters" to "batterers" in reference to K-Rod's anger-management program.

"Besides, you're a pitcher, not a better," she quipped.

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