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July 11, 2010 at 12:12 PM

Mariners were “not aware” of trade return Josh Lueke’s no-contest plea in criminal charge: flew him to Seattle this morning for face-to-face

The Mariners, it seems, were caught off guard by revelations that one of the four prospects they received in the Cliff Lee trade, Class AA pitcher Josh Lueke, had pleaded no contest to a charge of false imprisonment with violence against a woman who had gone to his apartment two years ago.
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, who has along history of supporting women’s groups and others who advocate against violence towards women, told me this morning he was stunned when news of the no-contest plea came out.
“I was not aware of that before we acquired him,” Armstrong said. “And it is going to be addressed.”
Armstrong suggested I speak to GM Jack Zduriencik about how it was being addressed.
So, I spoke to Zduriencik moments ago, and he told me Lueke had been flown into Seattle by the team for a face-to-face meeting with him and minor league director Pedro Grifol. Zduriencik wouldn’t say exactly when the interview took place, but I’m now told it was this morning and may actually still be ongoing.
“We had a degree of information and we have flown Josh in for a face-to-face,” Zduriencik said. “We were satisfied with the interview and it’s an issue that’s behind us.”
Zduriencik said Lueke was made well aware of the team’s “zero tolerance” policy on violence towards women. This no-contest plea, on a case that began in May 2008, took place over a year ago, before the Mariners acquired the pitcher. Since then, he’s resumed his career and the M’s, having already agreed to the trade, can’t return Lueke to the Rangers.
In cases like these, the team has to do the research beforehand. Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln, who was standing beside him as we spoke, both told me they did not know about the no-contest plea.
So, Lueke has been put on notice that he will be monitored closely by Grifol as his minor league career continues. If he makes it to the majors, he will fall under Zduriencik’s watch.
But make no mistake: the impression I was left with today was that Lueke would not have been part of this deal had the team known ahead of time that he had pleaded no contest to this charge. I asked Zduriencik whether he had been aware of the no-contest plea and he chose not to comment on that.
Remember, when we first interviewed Zduriencik two days ago, he said he had spoken to Rangers officials about it: “We take this stuff very seriously. And all of the questions that we asked all of the (Rangers) officials over there, they assured us that the issues were none that they had any concern about as they moved forward and for the last couple of years, he’s been a model citizen.
“And that, at that moment in time, whatever happened, he’s been cleared. According to everything they told us and everything they’ve given us…it’s an issue that’s cleared and it’s behind him.”
But there is a huge difference between “being cleared” of a crime and pleading no contest to one — which carries the same weight as a guilty plea. Lueke was initially charged with rape and sodomy, but pleaded to the lesser charge and was let out of jail because he’d been sentenced to 40 days and had already served that much time awaiting trial.
Should the Mariners have looked into it further? Well, a quick Google search turns up the no-contest plea. If they were uncomfortable enough about it to fly Lueke in here specially, it seems to suggest a little more due dilligence was required on their part. I’ll leave it at that.


On to other Mariners news, Erik Bedard did not play catch yesterdayas planned. He’ll do it today, then have a bullpen session in Anaheim when the team plays there next weekend.
So, yeah, this thing is dragging out. And it could very well mean Bedard will have to go back down to the minors for a rehabilitation assignment before he can start for the Mariners.
“I think that depends on how far we go,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said this morning. “We’re losing a lot of time here and that’s a consideration, yes.”

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