Prosecutors Ditch Felony Charge On Marcell Ozuna After Seeing Bodycam Video


Photo: Todd Kirkland

Bodycam video from arresting officers in Marcell Ozuna’s domestic violence case casts doubt on allegations that the outfielder attempted to choke his wife, as initially reported by police, according to sources.

Sources say the bodycam video captured everything that officers witnessed as they entered Ozuna’s house, and has been examined by prosecutors. As a result of what prosecutors saw on the video, prosecutors decided not to charge Ozuna with aggravated assault, strangulation-- which would have been a felony -- and instead charged him with two misdemeanors. Sources say Ozuna’s lawyers and the district attorney are in talks over a possible resolution of the matter. Since both charges are misdemeanors, if Ozuna is able to strike a plea deal, he could walk away with probation and avoid jail time. However, under Georgia law, a simple assault on a spouse does enhance the charge to an aggravated misdemeanor which could lead a judge to sentence him to some jail time, at the Judge’s discretion, if that charge is not pled down.

UPDATE: 8:45 pm

"Sandy Springs police confirmed its officers were wearing body cams when they responded to the Ozuna incident. Regarding the prosecutor's decision not to charge Ozuna with a felony, as originally charged by police, Sergeant Salvador Ortega replied, " We have been unaware of this update and this is something that could only be done by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Once we obtained the warrants and made the arrest, the case was turned over to them for prosecution."

On July 15th, prosecutors formally charged the Braves outfielder with one count of battery, family violence and one count of simple assault, family violence, both misdemeanors that can carry up to one year in jail. He is still being accused of committing assault and battery against his wife, but this is a departure from the felony allegations leveled against Ozuna when he was arrested and accused of attempting to choke his wife, Genesis, by allegedly grabbing her by the neck, throwing her up against the wall and hitting her with his casted fingers. Officers say she was visibly injured. 

Sandy Springs officers initially reported arriving at Ozuna’s home on the afternoon of Saturday, May 29th, hearing screams and entering through an open door. 

“Officers entered the residence through the open door and witnessed the suspect grabbing the victim by the neck and throwing her against a wall,” said Sergeant Salvador Ortega in a public statement. “Officers were able to immediately take the suspect into custody without further incident. In addition to the strangulation attempts, the suspect also struck the victim with his arm which has a cast from a previous injury.”

Ozuna’s two fingers were placed in a cast after he fractured them while sliding toward third base in a game against the Boston Red Sox back in May. 

Strangulation or even merely placing hands on someone’s neck would create grounds for a felony charge of aggravated assault, strangulation in Georgia. However, sources say the video did not warrant such a charge, as it conflicted with at least some of the officer’s allegations.

In Georgia even if Ozuna did place his hands on his wife's neck it could be very hard to prove strangulation absent a loss of consciousness. 

According to a Sandy Springs Police affidavit, reported on by Fox 5 Atlanta, the May 29th dispute began when Ozuna took his wife’s phone and refused to return it because he was allegedly upset over potential infidelity. The affidavit states that he “threatened to kill” Genesis. Genesis allegedly chased Ozuna outside before returning inside, locking the doors, and grabbing a knife. The affidavit also alleges that Genesis dropped the knife before pleading with Marcell to return her phone, to which he responded by using his cast to push her face back. The affidavit also states that Ozuna allegedly proceeded to push her to the ground and began strangling Genesis. 

The couple has a history of domestic disputes. Genesis Ozuna was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge back in 2019 after allegedly throwing a soap dish at Ozuna and cutting his face. She was booked into Miami-Dade County Jail on May 29th.

Major League Baseball is currently investigating Ozuna. The existence of a bodycam video of the incident allegedly capturing an assault and battery, places MLB under public pressure to keep good on its promises to enforce its domestic violence policy, much like the Ray Rice videocast the spotlight on the NFL’s handling of domestic violence back in 2014. 

Once the case is closed, the video will be made available to the public and MLB under Georgia’s open records policy. 

When Ozuna was arrested back in May, the Braves issued a statement reiterating MLB’s zero-tolerance position on domestic violence: 

“We learned of Marcell Ozuna’s arrest earlier this evening and immediately informed the Commissioner’s Office. The Braves fully support Major League Baseball’s policy on domestic violence, which stresses to the fullest that our society cannot and will not tolerate domestic violence in any form. Until the investigation is completed, we will have no further comment and all inquiries into the matters should be referred to the Office of the Commissioner.”

Ozuna is currently under a four-year contract with the Braves worth $65 million, which he just signed this past off-season after leading the National League in Home Runs in 2020. The contract includes a club option worth $15 million that would convert the deal to five years and $80 million.

Ozuna has not played since the finger fracture injury, and he currently remains on Atlanta’s Injured List. The Braves have not placed Ozuna on their Restricted List.

Ozuna is due back in court on August 10th.

Jake Gordon, of SportsTalkATL.com (@cantguardjake) contributed reporting to this article.

Amy Dash has been Fox Sports Radio's official legal analyst since 2019. A two-time Emmy winner, she is also the legal analyst for CBS Sports Radio and Audacy's Legal Insider. Dash is a veteran breaking news reporter, national TV legal correspondent, former anchor, and she was the first TV legal correspondent to cover mixed martial arts. Follow her @amydashtv for the latest updates on the biggest sports law headlines.

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