Ponson likely to be freed today

THE BALTIMORE SUN

With two escaped suspects behind bars again in Aruba, Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson is expected to be released from custody today after meeting with the public prosecutor and a judge.

The hearing comes 11 days after Ponson was detained for his alleged involvement in a fight on a beach in Boca Catalina on Aruba's west coast.

A group of people confronted Ponson, 28, and accused him of operating his Jet Ski recklessly and harassing them. Ponson allegedly punched a judge, who suffered a black eye, and fled the scene.

Two other men also were detained, but they escaped a Noord police station late Wednesday night. Police apprehended them Sunday.

In the latest twist to the case, a reporter at the daily newspaper Diaria Aruba said the men were caught with approximately $20,000, drugs, jewelry, cell phones and a police scanner. Photos of the suspects ran on local television, and authorities found them in a neighborhood in the middle of the island after a citizen called in a tip.

One of the suspects is from Aruba, the other from the Dominican Republic. They own and operate boats that Ponson rents when he's on the island.

A spokesman at the Noord station declined to comment and referred questions to the prosecutors' office, which is closed until today.

Ponson didn't suffer any injuries in the fight, and he had no involvement in the escape, which took place while he was held at a station on the other side of the island. He was transferred to Noord last week.

The prosecutor requested Ponson be detained for up to eight days while continuing his investigation, a period that would end tomorrow without an earlier release.

If Ponson is released today as expected, he could be allowed to leave the island until his case goes to court and a final sentence is handed down. The judge also could order the pitcher held for up to eight more days. If that happens, Ponson could be sent to prison while waiting for his case to be heard.

People close to Ponson and many of the locals expect him to be fined and ordered to perform community service. The potential charges against him are simple assault and public violence.

"We are feeling optimistic about the outcome tomorrow," said Ponson's attorney, Chris Lejuez.

Ponson has been detained since the fight because Aruba doesn't have a bail system.

Another man, identified as a friend of Ponson's, was interrogated on Thursday as the prosecutor tried to piece together details of the fight.

Ponson went 11-15 with a 5.30 ERA in 33 starts last season. He was 3-12 at the break after signing a three-year, $22.5 million contract and rejoining the organization.

In 1998, Ponson became the third Aruban to play in the major leagues. Five years later, he was decorated in his homeland as a knight in the Order of the Dutch Royal House.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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