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Wife's testimony enough to free Lugo

Published Jul. 17, 2003|Updated Sep. 1, 2005

Devil Rays infielder Julio Lugo was acquitted on charges of assault/family violence by a six-person jury Wednesday, a day after his wife testified that she had exaggerated the circumstances that led to Lugo's arrest April 30 in Houston.

The jury of four men and two women deliberated for 20 minutes in Harris County Criminal Court in Houston before delivering the verdict in a trial that ended a day early.

"We said all along that if the true facts came out, he would be found not guilty," defense attorney Chris Tritico said. "The way (Assistant District Attorney) Catherine (Evans) selected the jury, I had a feeling Mrs. Lugo was going to tell the truth. They spent a lot of time asking how they would feel if a spouse comes in and says the husband didn't do it."

Mabel Lugo effectively crushed the prosecution's case Tuesday when she testified that Julio Lugo did not mean to hurt her during an altercation in their vehicle as she drove him to Minute Maid Park, where he was to play in a game for the Astros. Julio Lugo was accused of punching her and slamming her head against the vehicle.

Mabel Lugo also took responsibility for instigating the incident, contradicting the report she gave police after Lugo was arrested in the stadium parking lot eight hours after the incident.

The prosecution continued the case with testimony from other witnesses.

"She was not happy to be here," Evans said in her closing arguments, according to the Associated Press. "She is protective of her husband. She is anxious. She is nervous. I don't blame her. How sad is it to hear a woman say over and over, "I hit myself with the truck. I provoked him. It was my fault.' "

Mabel Lugo's assertions that she clarified the facts during testimony may protect her from perjury charges, Tritico said.

"She tried to tell the district attorney he didn't do it, but they prosecuted the case anyway," Tritico said.

Texas law allows for prosecution of family violence cases on hearsay evidence. Lugo could have received a year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted.

Mabel Lugo smiled when the verdict was read and was hugged by Julio Lugo's mother, Rhina.

"I told everybody from the first day that when the true facts came out, everything would be fine," Julio Lugo said. "My wife told the truth (Tuesday) and (Wednesday) I was found not guilty."

The Lugos are separated and have filed for divorce.

Julio Lugo was released by the Astros immediately after his arrest and signed to a one-year contract by the Rays.

Neither Rays general manager Chuck LaMar nor general counsel John Higgins returned calls from the Times on Wednesday.

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