Wittels faces rape charge in Bahamas
The Associated Press
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Florida International baseball player with a record-setting 56-game hitting streak has been charged with rape in the Bahamas, court officials in the islands' capital said Monday.
Garrett Wittels was accused of raping a 17-year-old teenage tourist on Dec. 20 while on a visit to the archipelago east of Florida. The 20-year-old infielder ended last season with the second-longest hitting streak in NCAA Division I history, two behind the 58-game run by Oklahoma State's Robin Ventura in 1987.
Two of Wittels' friends also face rape charges, officials said. Robert Rothschild, 21, of New York, was accused of raping two 17-year-old girls, while Jonathan Oberti, 21, also of New York, was charged with raping one, according to Bahamian court officials.
Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez granted Wittels and the two others $10,000 bail at their Thursday arraignment in Nassau. The U.S. suspects were not required to enter pleas and returned to the United States.
It is unclear how, or if, the charge would affect Wittels' status with the FIU program. FIU begins its season Feb. 18 and its first three games are set to be televised while Wittels continues his chase of Ventura's record.
FIU Athletic Director Pete Garcia declined to comment about the charge. "We are still in the process ... and will wait for the process to be completed," Garcia told The Associated Press on Monday.
Magistrate Derence Rolle-Davis will begin a preliminary inquiry on April 18 to determine if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial. By then, FIU's season will be more than half over.
Wittels, who set school and Sun Belt Conference records with his streak in 2010, did not respond to a message seeking comment sent to his Facebook account. He posted congratulatory messages on his Twitter feed Sunday night after FIU's football team beat Toledo to win the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit -- the first bowl win for the Golden Panthers' football program -- but no mention of the legal matters.
Wittels tweeted on Dec. 18 that he was going to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for several days.
Wittels' father, an orthopedist, told The Miami Herald that his son would be vindicated. He said his son was "devastated" by the allegations. "Anyone can accuse anyone of anything at any time," Michael Wittels told the Miami newspaper during a Monday morning phone interview. "He's not doing well, obviously. He's blown away. He's devastated that someone would accuse him of this."
Michael Wittels, whose telephone appeared to be disconnected later Monday, told the newspaper that his son and his friends met the two girls at a casino and they later went to a private party. The girls apparently described themselves as students at the University of Arkansas, he said.
In the Bahamas, the maximum penalty for a first-time rape offender is seven years.
Bahamian attorney Wayne Munroe, who is representing the U.S. suspects, did not immediately return calls Monday.