A federal judge has ordered a golf club owned by President Donald Trump to refund nearly $6 million to members who said Trump's team essentially confiscated refundable deposits after taking over the country club in 2012While that bigly trial came to a close, another one, involving allegations of smuggling Cuban baseball players, led off with opening statements before Judge Kathy Williams. H. Ron Davidson opened for the government, and the two defendants, Bart Hernandez and Julio Estrada, are represented by Jeff Marcus/Dan Rashbaum and Sabrina Puglisi/Dianne Carames. Curt Anderson from the AP on openings:
U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that the Trump National Jupiter Golf Club violated the contracts with members by retaining the fees and locking out many members who had declared their plans to resign.
"The Court concludes that the Plan documents, as properly interpreted, were intended to provide club members of the resignation list with a continuing right to use the Club facilities until their membership was reissued to a new member, provided the club member was otherwise in good standing with the Club," Marra wrote.
Florida-based sports agent and a trainer ran legitimate businesses aimed at getting Cuban baseball players to sign U.S. major league contracts but were not involved with smuggling players from the communist island or falsifying travel documents, their lawyers told a federal jury Wednesday.
Opening statements were held Wednesday in the case against agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada, both of whom have been charged with conspiracy and alien smuggling. Both face lengthy prison sentences if convicted.
Hernandez attorney Jeffrey Marcus said the agent's only involvement with the players was to negotiate their contracts with professional teams through his company, Global Sports Management, and that his percentage was relatively small at less than 5 percent.
"His business is baseball. It's not smuggling," Marcus told jurors. "This case, I think, is a stretch in many ways, in fact and in law."
Likewise, Estrada lawyer Sabrina Puglisi said her client's role was operating training facilities in Mexico and the Dominican Republic so players could stay sharp while they awaited permission to come to the U.S.
Under Major League Baseball rules, Cuban players who establish residency in a third country can sign lucrative deals with teams as free agents, but would have to submit to the baseball draft and get paid less if they come directly to the U.S.
"Julio has nothing to hide. He did everything above board. He's running a legitimate business," Puglisi said.
No players are accused of wrongdoing. Several Cuban-born players are likely to testify, including Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Adeiny Hechevarria of the Miami Marlins. Puglisi said more than 20 players were trained by Estrada.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Davidson said in his opening statement that some players came to the U.S. with falsified passports or used other forms of deception to establish residency in Mexico and other countries. One tactic, he said, was to submit documents to the Mexican government claiming the players had actual jobs such as a welder, mechanic, even as an "area supervisor" for a jet ski company.
"It was just made up," Davidson said.