Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story stated that Trevor Bauer’s lawyer released the victim’s name, however the victim’s lawyer previously released his client’s name. The story has been updated to reflect that.
Late Tuesday, news broke that Los Angeles Dodgers right-handed pitcher and reigning National League Cy Young award winner Trevor Bauer had been accused of physically assaulting a woman. The details, as related by Britt Ghiroli and Katie Strang, are horrifying. Bauer denied the allegations, saying that Bauer and his accuser had engaged in consensual “rough sex” on two occasions. However, it’s worth noting that Bauer’s accuser has already requested and received a restraining order from the Los Angeles County Superior Court. That last part gives these allegations significant credibility and makes him the second high-profile star MLB player to face credible sexual assault allegations this year, after Marcell Ozuna.
The law used by Bauer’s accuser - whom I will not name here to protect her privacy - is the California Domestic Violence Prevention Act. That statute allows a court to issue what is commonly called a “restraining order” or “order of protection,” but what is really, under Section 6218 of that statute, what we lawyers call an “injunction.” An injunction is a special kind of court order prohibiting a person from doing certain acts. For example, a restraining order is an injunction prohibiting the respondent (the person against whom the order is entered) from having contact with the petitioner (the person seeking the order).
Typically, there are two parts of a case seeking an injunction. The first step is a temporary restraining order, which remains in effect for a limited period of time, sometimes during the pendency of a parallel or underlying civil or criminal case. The second step is the issuance of a permanent injunction, which remains in effect essentially forever. Injunctions of both types are considered drastic remedies in the law, and so they are considered difficult to obtain. To satisfy either step, a petitioner must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Court several elements, most notably that the petitioner will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction isn’t issued and that the petitioner has shown “a likelihood of success on the merits.” That last part is legalese for “the judge thinks you’re probably going to win,” and that is, as any litigator knows, a really high standard to reach early in a case.
Certainly, just because the judge thinks you’re going to win doesn’t mean the respondent is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There have been instances where a temporary restraining order was granted, and the allegations were later found to be fabricated. However, they are extraordinarily rare, for two reasons. First, all requests for restraining orders must be signed under oath, which means that false allegations are literal perjury. Second, judges who hear these cases tend - and are taught - to be quite conservative in granting injunctions. Any doubts are resolved against granting the restraining order. So the fact that Bauer’s accuser was granted one means that in the view of a court, her allegations are more likely true than not. That’s buttressed by the medical evidence, as The Athletic related.
Together, the woman said those two incidents included Bauer punching her in the face, vagina, and buttocks, sticking his fingers down her throat, and strangling her to the point where she lost consciousness multiple times.
The alleged assaults described by the woman, which are extremely graphic in nature, happened during what she said began as consensual sexual encounters between the two. According to the woman’s declaration attached to the request and obtained by The Athletic, she suffered injuries as a result of the second encounter, including two black eyes, a bloodied swollen lip, significant bruising and scratching to one side of her face. In the woman’s declaration, signed under penalty of perjury of California state laws, she said that her medical notes state that she had “significant head and facial trauma” and that there were signs of basilar skull fracture.
And in that vein, the response of Bauer’s lawyer, Jon Fetterolf, is absurdly awful. Fetterolf claims that the allegations are “defamatory,” which is a legally ridiculous statement; the California Supreme Court, like every other state supreme court, has held that statements made in court proceedings cannot be defamatory under a doctrine called the litigation privilege. Fetterolf also volunteered the information that the petitioner had suffered a concussion at Bauer’s hand, which constitutes an admission against interest. Fetterolf’s response, therefore, only serves to buttress the case for Bauer’s accuser whilst undermining his own.
But frankly, whilst the headlines are filled with the scandal of a reigning Cy Young winner facing potential criminal charges for brutally fracturing a woman’s skull, we really shouldn’t be nearly as shocked as the headlines would have us believe. This is the same man who spent days harassing a college student online; the same man who brags about how he treats women as disposable; the same man who retweeted antisemitic conspiracy theories and trafficked in racism and transphobia. This is a man who said on multiple occasions that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and responded “the truth” to a statement that accused Jews of paying “Black hate groups” because “The Black community is the easiest to manipulate.” And yet despite all of this, all of the warning signs, we - the baseball media - made him a star.
I’ve written before about the moral rot infecting Major League Baseball as a result of the evils of racism and misogyny, and how that rot extends to the MLB press as well. Bauer is a prime example. We said he was changing baseball, and chalked up his toxicity as being “quirky.” We called him “unique” and “willing to speak his mind.” We filled news columns with his “unfiltered commentary,” no matter who he might harm along the way.
And we made a star out of his agent, Rachel Luba, even as she, too, publicly undermined domestic assault survivors to defend her other marquee client, Yasiel Puig, who is also facing sexual assault charges. We held podcasts with her and praised her as a trailblazer because he was a trailblazer, even as she defended his racism. Here they were - the “unique, quirky” right-hander and his photogenic agent - and we elevated them even as all the warning signs were there. We breathlessly reported on his spin rate, his mechanics, his “quirks”...
...and now a woman has been forever traumatized. And we - the baseball media - are complicit in causing her trauma. We cannot fawn over Bauer, elevating him despite his toxicity, and then disclaim any fault or blame when that toxicity causes tangible harm.
Sheryl Ring is a consumer rights and civil rights attorney practicing in the Chicago, Illinois area. You can reach her on Twitter @Ring_Sheryl. This post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, and does not create any attorney-client relationship.