Rays RHP Matt Bush breaks down in bail reduction hearing, which will be continued Thursday
Tampa Bay Rays minor league pitcher Matt Bush broke down in tears Monday during limited testimony in a bail reduction hearing, which will be continued Thursday in Punta Gorda.
"I have no desire, will or want, to drink again," Bush told the court.
Bush, held in Charlotte County Jail on $1.015 million bail, was arrested Mar. 22 when police said he hit the motorcyle of 72-year-old Tony Tufano and fled the scene. Police said Bush had a blood alcohol percentage of .180, more than double the legal limit. Tufano was in an intensive care unit at a Fort Myers hospital for a few weeks but is now at home, though attorney Paul Sullivan said he's clearly "not the same man," using a walker and unable to laugh, cry or pick up his grandkids due to 10 broken ribs.
Tufano's son, Tony, and daughter in law, Shannon Moore, were at Monday's hearing, sitting barely five feet behind Bush, who was handcuffed and wore a brown Charlotte County jail uniform.
"We don't want him out, he's had many, many chances to go through rehab," Shannon Moore said. "Obviously he's failed. He's, in his own words, said that he can't control himself. Why should he be out and be a danger to the community?"
Bush's attorney, Russell Kirshy, argued Monday for much lower bail, citing 10 cases in Charlotte County history, where the highest — in a DUI manslaughter case — being $96,000. The hearing will be continued Thursday to give the state and new judge John Duryea time to review the new documents and call additional witnesses, if need be.
Kirshy brought in a witness, retired pastor Rafael De Armas, who said Bush could live with him and his wife in Port Charlotte after he enters a rehabilitation program, which would be for 28 days plus another 30 days post. De Armas said he's worked with Bush and other Rays players at their spring training complex the past two years.
Bush could only testify in matters related to his bail hearing, from his previous arrest record to financial status — not on the events of March 22. He was questioned for 20 minutes, spoke softly and wiped away tears as he was asked about his family. Bush, who received $3.15 million as the 2004 top overall pick, said he has $1,000 in the bank and no significant assets he could sell.
"It's kind of an amazing fall for a fellow who once had $3 million in the bank," Kirshy said. "It's a really shocking fall."
The Rays have put him on the restricted list, so Bush said he won't be getting a salary. Bush said he's had no direct contact with the Rays, and acknowledged there hasn't been much said through his representatives. But Bush, when asked if he thought his status with the Rays could change if he gets out on bail, appeared optimistic.
"I believe it's possible," Bush said.
Prosecutor Richard Simpson brought in several witnesses of his own, including three police officers who delivered more details on the chase involving Bush that day. The officers described the Dodge Durango that Bush was driving as reaching speeds upwards of 80 miles per hour, swerving between lanes, driving on the shoulder and over driveways and running a red light.
Simpson and Kirshy both went over Bush's previous arrest record, which includes a DUI conviction and reckless driving conviction. Simpson pointed out Bush had already been through a four-month rehab program in San Diego several years ago, and also entered another program in 2010 when signing with the Rays (the Winning Inning in Clearwater), arguing rehab won't be enough and he won't be able to control himself.
Kirshy said alcohol or drug addiction can be a "long" and "painful" process, and a majority of them don't do well the first time they get treated. Kirshy said he's spoken with Bush two or three dozen times since his arrest, and none of it has been about baseball or him returning to the field.
"For the first week or two, all I could get him to talk about was how Mr. Tufano was," Kirshy said. "He wanted to know that every single time I went to see him."
Kirshy said Bush's mental state is "terrible," but that's a small issue compared to bigger issues in the case, "like is Mr. Tufano okay, and is Matthew going to spend the next 15 years in prison." Kirshy said from his conversations, it's unclear when Bush's problem with alcohol came back.
"There are people that have only known him since he came to the Rays, and those people would testify that - if they were able to testify - that they've never seen him drive a vechicle or seen him drink an alcoholic beverage in two and a half years. I'd say he was doing pretty well, but it's certainly not an easy thing."
— JOE SMITH, [email protected]