Braves’ Marcell Ozuna granted bond in domestic violence case

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna, accused of choking and striking his wife, has been released from jail on $20,000 bond.

Though his bond terms allow him to travel out of state with the Braves, his status with the team remains unclear. Thursday’s game against the Washington Nationals had initially been themed “Marcell Ozuna Arm Sleeve,” where fans presumably would have been gifted with mementos inspired by Ozuna’s neon gear, but that appears to be off.

The 2020 home run leader also faces a possible suspension by Major League Baseball, which has taken a tough stance in recent years on domestic violence, just months after signing a $65 million, four-year contract with Atlanta.

Ozuna, 30, spent two days in jail after Sandy Springs Police officers responded to a 911 call at his rental home on Saturday and reported seeing him striking his wife, Genesis Ozuna, with the cast placed on his arm after a recent game injury, throwing her against a wall and trying to strangle her. A prosecutor said at Monday’s bond hearing that the attempted strangulation didn’t stop until officers intervened.

Genesis Ozuna later told police her husband had threatened to kill her before she dialed 911, according to an arrest affidavit.

Ozuna’s defense attorney, Lars Anderson, said in court Monday that there are more facts about what happened that will come to light as the case develops, alluding to “events preceding it.” The Ozunas are in the midst of a divorce, he said, with him living in the Sandy Springs rental house and her living in Miami with the children.

The outfielder had been hitting .213/.288/.356 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 48 games this season. Then he fractured two fingers during the game in Boston last week and was expected to be on the Braves’ injured list for several weeks.

His wife had come to town to visit him when the alleged assault occurred, his attorney said.

“At best, it is described as a toxic relationship,” Anderson said.

He said his client has had not any other instances of violent behavior with anyone else, but “this appears to be arising from this relationship.”

Monday’s bond hearing was held by Zoom meeting, with Ozuna appearing from a room at the Fulton County jail, wearing navy blue inmate clothes and a yellow cast on his left arm.

In allowing his release, Fulton County Magistrate Court Judge Ashley Osby took into consideration that he has no prior criminal record and that his estranged wife asked that he be granted reasonable bond, saying through her own attorney that she has no fear of him and did not want the father of her children to stay locked up.

Ozuna can travel with the Braves, so long as he keeps Fulton County Pretrial Services apprised of his schedule, the judge ordered. He will not be required to wear an ankle monitor.

Judge Osby also ordered that the outfielder have no contact with his wife about anything other than the children and that they use a family member or other third party as an intermediary to ferry the children between them. Ozuna may have no weapons in his possession while his criminal case is pending.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s office had asked for no bond, with prosecutor Simone Hylton noting that while Ozuna has a clean record, his wife said there have been other instances of abuse that were not reported.

His arrest came a year to the day after Genesis Ozuna was arrested in Miami after a domestic dispute when she allegedly struck her husband with a soap dish, leaving a cut over his eye. Genesis Ozuna’s attorney, who was present during Monday’s hearing, said that case has been dismissed.

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

According to Sandy Springs police, officers arrived at the Windsor Cove home on Saturday and heard screaming from inside, with the front door open.

“Officers entered the residence through the open door and witnessed the suspect grabbing the victim by the neck and throwing her against a wall,” Sgt. Salvador Ortega said in an emailed statement. “Officers were able to immediately take the suspect into custody without further incident. In addition to the strangulation attempts, the suspect also struck the victim with his arm which has a cast from a previous injury.”

According to court documents, Genesis Ozuna told investigators she had been taking a shower when her husband entered the bathroom and took both of her cellphones and refused to give them back.

Marcell Ozuna told police he left the home with the phones and when he returned, his wife was holding a knife.

She said she was afraid for her life due to her husband’s “aggressive behavior and being physically abusive towards her in the past,” court documents stated.

Investigators said Genesis Ozuna had visible injuries but did not go to the hospital. The couple’s children were not in the home at the time, Sgt. Ortega said.

Police charged Ozuna with aggravated assault by strangulation and family violence, jail records showed. He is charged under Georgia’s Family Violence Act, so now that the case has been turned over to prosecutors, the charges cannot be dropped by the alleged victim.

Two lawyers for the Braves listened in during Monday’s hearing as observers.

After Ozuna finished sixth in National League MVP voting in 2020, his first year with the team, the Braves re-signed him in February to a four-year deal that guaranteed him $65 million, with a fifth-year team option worth $16 million, and with a $1 million buyout. It was the largest contract Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has given to a free agent during his tenure.

The team released a statement about the arrest on social media Saturday.

“We learned of Marcell Ozuna’s arrest earlier this evening and immediately informed the Commissioner’s Office,” the Braves said. “The Braves fully support Major League Baseball’s policy on domestic violence which stresses to the fullest that our society cannot and will not tolerate domestic violence in any form. Until the investigation is completed, we will have no further comment and all inquiries into the matter should be referred to the Office of the Commissioner.”

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Staff Writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this story.