Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said he was not aware that minor-league pitcher Josh Lueke, one of four players obtained from Texas in the Cliff Lee deal, pleaded no contest last year to a charge of false imprisonment with violence.
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said he was “not aware” beforehand that a Class AA pitcher obtained in the Cliff Lee deal pleaded no contest last year to a charge of false imprisonment with violence against a woman.
“I was not aware of that before we acquired him,” Armstrong said. “And it is going to be addressed.”
The Mariners flew the minor-leaguer, Josh Lueke, into Seattle for a hastily arranged meeting Sunday morning with general manager Jack Zduriencik and minor-league director Pedro Grifol.
The Mariners have long supported groups who oppose violence against women. Three years ago, when reliever Julio Mateo was accused of beating his wife during a trip to New York, the Mariners suspended him immediately and traded him soon after.
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Both Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln, who was standing beside Armstrong as he spoke, insisted they had no idea before the trade with Texas was made that Lueke had made a no-contest plea and been given a 40-day sentence. Pleading no contest carries the same weight as a guilty plea but can often result in speedier and lighter sentences.
Lueke was initially accused of rape and sodomy stemming from the May 2008 incident. He spent several months behind bars awaiting trial, then was set free with time served after pleading to the lesser charge.
Zduriencik and Grifol met with Lueke at Safeco Field before Sunday’s game.
“We had a degree of information and we have flown Josh in for a face-to-face,” Zduriencik said afterward. “We were satisfied with the interview and it’s an issue that’s behind us.”
Zduriencik added that Lueke had been informed of the team’s “zero tolerance” policy on violence toward women. Lueke will be closely monitored and Zduriencik said that any further questionable behavior would be dealt with swiftly.
On the day of the Lee trade, Zduriencik said he had looked into Lueke’s background with Rangers officials.
“We take this stuff very seriously,” he said at the time. “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 while Lueke was cleared of the more serious rape and sodomy charges, he was in fact sentenced for the lesser crime. Zduriencik declined further comment when asked whether he’d been aware beforehand of the no-contest plea.
The issue was addressed by Zduriencik in the team’s annual midseason meeting with all employees Saturday, the day after news reports first surfaced about Lueke’s past. Eyewitnesses who attended the meeting say both Armstrong and Lincoln were present in the room when Zduriencik assured staffers the team had looked into the matter thoroughly.
The Lee deal came together rather quickly Friday morning when the Rangers offered up prized first baseman Justin Smoak, just as the Mariners were finishing up a planned trade with the New York Yankees. Seattle dealt Lee to the Rangers instead, getting back Smoak, Lueke, Class AA pitcher Blake Beavan and AA infielder Matt Lawson.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners