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|Toronto Blue Jays President and CEO Paul Godfrey inducts Roberto Alomar into the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2008 in Toronto, Ontario.|
TAMPA, Fla. -- Maria Del Pilar Alomar -- or Maripily, as the buxom model's known in Puerto Rico -- is not having a good day. She's flirty and the center of attention one minute, near tears and falling apart the next.
She's just left a downtown courthouse, though not before carefully breaking stride on 6-inch high heels to warmly chat up a gaggle of Spanish-speaking reporters and camera crews from back home. She is fretting about the legal wrangle with her estranged husband, former All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar, that weighs on her nerves as another hearing ends without a settlement.
The ugly spat erupted in early August when, barely a year after the couple married, Maripily obtained a temporary injunction for protection against domestic violence against Alomar, alleging she'd been the victim of three separate incidents of domestic abuse since the spring. She has accused Alomar of pushing her and threatening her with a knife. Alomar, who denied his wife's claims in court, countered by filing for divorce a few days later on the grounds that their marriage is "irretrievably broken," alleging Maripily had previously threatened divorce unless he gave her half ownership of an 18,000-square-foot Tampa residence in his name.
The court, as is usual in such combustible cases, afforded Alomar a small window to come by his old home and retrieve his valuables, including his Rolls Royce and Ferrari. That left Maripily with access to the leased Cadillac Escalade while continuing to hunker down in the $3 million home in an upscale gated community north of the city.
If only the split were as tidy. If only Alomar's post-baseball life were so tidy.
Alomar and his family name remain beloved in his native Puerto Rico. Little more than a year ago, he captured headlines back home by marrying Maripily, dubbed in gossip circles as the Paris Hilton of Puerto Rico. The celebrity couple was all smiles last summer for his enshrinement in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, where he was honored for his All-Star play and championship seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. These days, Alomar stays busy with a clothing line he's launched, splitting time between Toronto, Tampa and Puerto Rico.
But since retiring in 2005 as a 12-time All-Star, his baseball legacy slightly tarnished by the infamous spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck, Alomar's life has also been littered with soured relationships and legal wrangling. At least four women, including his estranged wife, have accused Alomar of being HIV positive and having unprotected sex with them. Alomar has steadfastly denied being HIV positive.
Amid the lingering personal turmoil, Alomar looms on the cusp of his greatest professional achievement. His name tops the list of players who'll be under consideration when Hall of Fame ballots are mailed out next month, and his Cooperstown induction is almost a foregone conclusion. His first time eligible last year, Alomar fell just eight votes shy of the required 75 percent of ballots cast. He was a favorite for election, though media accounts indicated some voters were reluctant to make him a first-ballot selection because of the spitting incident.
"His dream is to make the Hall of Fame," Maripily said of Alomar, a lifetime .300 hitter and one of the game's best-ever second basemen. "He was disillusioned that he did not get in [last year]."
Alomar told Newsday after the vote he was shocked by not being elected: "I'm surprised. I'm real, real, real surprised. Sometimes you have to deal with the good and the bad.''
When the election results arrive this year, a supportive image of Maripily won't be captured at her husband's side. Not a chance. Over the past several months, the not-so-long-ago happy couple has engaged in a legal cat fight, led by Mrs. Alomar.
|Alomar sits with his wife at his home in Queens, N.Y. in January.|
Maripily and her legal team have spiced proceedings, in and out of the courthouse, while the tabloids back in Puerto Rico regularly churn out tidbits about the celebrity couple. Today, a newspaper carried an article accompanied by a racy photo that identifies Maripily dressed as Catwoman in a sexually suggestive pose with a costumed baseball player. The newspaper said that the photo was taken on Halloween in the house she and Alomar shared in Tampa.
Alomar stands accused of physically assaulting his wife and knowingly exposing the Puerto Rican swimsuit model/fitness guru to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Team Maripily claims to be in possession of a paper trail that identifies medications used by the baseball great to treat the virus.
They claim Alomar's health is relevant because the couple's contentious arguments, which are the basis for the original domestic abuse charge, have been about payments Alomar made to settle with women who claim to have had unprotected sex with him without knowing he was allegedly HIV positive.
Unless a settlement is struck beforehand, Maripily's attorneys suggest the lingering question of whether Alomar is HIV positive may finally be addressed during a scheduled Nov. 19 hearing in the domestic abuse case.
"Obviously, we want to get that in, because it goes to the heart of what caused the arguments and the fights," said Rick Calzada, Maripily's attorney. "We want to put in context and explain what happened.
"It wasn't simply an argument about finances or an argument about where to go to dinner. It was arguments about his illness and the lawsuits and her being named a defendant. That gives a context for why he acted the way he did. Why he pushed her. Why he acted violently."
Maripily now also contends Alomar used her as a prop when former live-in girlfriend Ilya Dall first alleged in a February 2009 civil suit that Alomar had AIDS. Dall, a former New York massage therapist, claimed she'd been put at risk by having had unprotected sex during their six-year relationship. At the time, Maripily, then Alomar's newly minted girlfriend, called Dall's lawsuit "a vile lie."
Maripily told ESPN.com, as her attorney served as interpreter after a recent court appearance, Alomar used her: "So he could return to fame and look like a family man. He is raising a child, my child [by a previous relationship]. A famous person. A beautiful woman who will defend him. A woman of business. I have my own boutique and am the one that gave him the idea to do [his] clothing line. I feel he used me for all this. He mistreated me. He took whatever he wanted. And he lied to me."
Maripily, 33, suggests Alomar, 42, lied to her in denying the Dall allegations. At the time, Dall claimed in a 17-page lawsuit that Alomar had refused two doctors' recommendations to be tested for AIDS until finally submitting to an exam in February 2006 by a Cleveland disease specialist, whom it is alleged in her lawsuit found Alomar to be HIV positive.
Alomar reached a confidential settlement last year on the $15 million civil suit filed by Dall. "Obviously, it has been settled and whatever those stipulations were I can't discuss it," Dall told ESPN.com.
Calzada, who represents Maripily, said of the Dall settlement: "It was enough to satisfy both sides to close the matter out. It was substantial." He said Maripily has told him Alomar has paid nearly $4 million in settlements to Dall and another woman, tennis pro Meghann Shaughnessy, who last December raised a similar claim of being exposed to HIV by the retired baseball star.
Dall said she met Alomar in 2002 shortly after he was traded to the New York Mets. At the time, she ran a massage therapy business not far from the old Shea Stadium and treated some of the ballplayers. Dall said she and her two young boys later lived with Alomar from February 2005 to October 2008, shuffling between homes in New York, Ohio and Florida.
"I know Robbie very well," she said. "I'm not gonna say he was the best boyfriend. We had differences, but he never ever laid a hand on me or my kids."
Neither Alomar's estranged wife, nor Dall, nor two other women who have raised similar claims against the retired ballplayer have ever tested positive for HIV.
Alomar has repeatedly denied interview requests by ESPN.com since the HIV allegations first arose in February 2009. And his current attorney, David Maney, has not responded to at least five telephone messages. Recently, outside the court chamber, looking fit in tan slacks, dark silk shirt and sunglasses perched atop his head, Alomar said he'd talk when the case was over. He then added: "I heard you're talking to the other party [Maripily]. Talk to them. You don't need me."
Unlike Maripily, who tends to embrace the courthouse spectacle, Alomar has seemed uncomfortable throughout the proceedings. He can often be seen huddled quietly with his attorneys outside the judge's chambers, away from the media trailing Maripily. He's polite but isn't eager to converse when approached.
Shortly after the HIV allegation first arose in the Dall lawsuit, Alomar issued a statement, saying "I am in very good health, and I ask that you respect my privacy during this time. As for the lawsuit, it is filled with lies, and I am deeply saddened that someone I cared for would make such terrible accusations and try to hurt me in this way."
Dall refers to Alomar as being "very private."
Rey Negron, a longtime friend and Alomar adviser, described Maripily and the other women as gold-diggers who "all smell money." As for Alomar's health, he said: "He looks terrific to me. He goes to the gym and he looks terrific."
|Maria Del Pilar Alomar and her attorneys talk after a court appearance in August.|
Negron suggested Alomar erred in settling the Dall lawsuit. As for why he'd reach a deal in light of the very specific information about his health provided in the suit, Negron said, "Well, that is not for me to say, because I don't know anything about that." He then added, "All I know is that Roberto Alomar is one of the good guys I have known. And that is all there is to it. He is a gentleman. He has always been good. He has been good to my family. He has been good to a lot of people. And he doesn't deserve all the bull----."
Yet the lawsuits and claims against Alomar pile up. Since the Dall lawsuit settlement in May 2009, at least three other women -- including Maripily, the estranged wife -- have raised the specter of Alomar having also had unprotected sex with them despite his knowing that he is HIV-positive.
Last October, popular merengue singer Giselle Ortiz filed a $6 million lawsuit in Puerto Rico against Alomar and his wife for alleged defamation, libel and slander in the wake of Maripily calling Ortiz, a former Alomar girlfriend, "a drug addict, a bad mother and a lesbian" on a few occasions. The suit was amended in February to include a claim of mental duress caused by allegations in Dall's lawsuit that Alomar was HIV-positive.
Attorneys for Alomar's wife also claim he engaged in settlement talks with Shaughnessy, another former girlfriend, after the pro tennis player raised similar allegations of duress caused by the alleged HIV status in a lawsuit that was drafted but not filed in Arizona. Alomar's estranged wife has been named as a defendant both in the suit filed by Ortiz as well as the lawsuit drafted last year by attorneys for Shaughnessy, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com.
"The reason for two of the three domestic violence incidents [involving Alomar and his wife] were as a direct result of these claims and allegations in the other lawsuits," said Calzada, one of Maripily's attorneys.
Ortiz said she hadn't dated Alomar since 2002, but the allegations of his being HIV-positive proved unsettling shortly after she married pro baseball player Miguel "Mickey" Negron in 2009. Her attorneys have been attempting through the courts to get Alomar to submit to an HIV test in Puerto Rico. Ortiz, 41, herself underwent an HIV test that came back negative, she said.
"I wasn't paying attention to what was going on with [Alomar] until she came out with that," Ortiz says of the lawsuit filed by Dall. "Then I got a little worried & I am happily married. So it has been hard for me and my family, too. I have a son. You just get married and someone comes out saying he has HIV. And you are like, 'Oh my God."'
The other claim by Shaughnessy also lists Maripily as a defendant, citing her as being a "member of the marital estate." The drafted lawsuit seeking unspecified punitive damages was never filed in Arizona federal court, but Calzada, Maripily's attorney, said instead it was mailed to Alomar and "apparently used for settlement purposes."
The draft identifies Robert W. Shely as the Phoenix-based attorney for Shaughnessy. When asked if he had prepared a potential lawsuit involving Alomar, Shely told ESPN.com: "Yeah, I just can't talk about anything about Robbie Alomar."
Asked if there had been a settlement involving Alomar, he said: "I can't help you."
As for forwarding a message to Shaughnessy seeking comment, he said: "If you want to give me a message I will give it to her, but I know that she won't talk to you."
ESPN.com left messages for Shaughnessy at the Scottsdale Hyatt Gainey Ranch Resort, where she is a resident pro, that were not returned. She also didn't respond to e-mail messages.
According to the legal draft, Shaughnessy claims she and Alomar were in an intimate relationship in 2004 and 2005, though at the time she was unaware Alomar was living with Dall. Shaughnessy said she and Alomar reconnected when he visited Arizona in October 2008. It was shortly after, in February 2009, that Dall filed her suit alleging Alomar was HIV positive and Shaughnessy claims she suffered "severe emotional distress."
In the legal draft, Shaughnessy alleges Alomar subsequently refused to confirm or deny whether he is HIV positive. She also claims he refused to provide her his medical records that could be used to confirm or deny he has the virus.
Mariply claims to have accepted Alomar's denials about the other women's HIV claims until she became aware of financial settlements he reached with them.
"Anytime I would question him about settlements he has made with other women and problems that came from that, he would get very aggressive, get in[my face and scream," Maripily says. "He would chest bump me Ever since I have been married to him I have been the victim of aggression and manipulation, in the sense he has told me if I said what I know that there will be very serious consequences against me. That he is Roberto Alomar and they will believe him and not me. And he can pay whoever he wants to say whatever he wants them to say. And he can destroy me and my family.
"I feel disillusioned, destroyed. I have a broken heart. I am angry at myself that a person used me. And [told] so many lies."
For now, Alomar remains silent.
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.