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The Washington Post

As Trevor Bauer fights for his career, his accusers fight back

Trevor Bauer last appeared in an MLB game in June 2021. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
18 min

LOS ANGELES — From nearly the moment Trevor Bauer, the polarizing star pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was accused of sexual assault last year, his team and much of the baseball world quickly moved on.

But for the three women who have publicly accused him of abuse, the past 18 months have been spent asserting, repeating and litigating their allegations.

One accuser was interrogated by detectives who scoured her phone for evidence of financial motives. When prosecutors then declined to charge Bauer, he posted a video to social media in which he called the woman a liar and denied striking her during sex even though he had acknowledged hitting her on a phone call recorded by detectives. Bauer’s investigator called another woman’s former acquaintances, asking about her dating and sex life, the woman said. And all three were accused of extortion and faced social media retaliation by Bauer.

The baseball star’s withering counterattack appeared to reach a crescendo in April of this year, just as he faced a career-threatening reckoning in which those women would play a pivotal role. Days before Major League Baseball suspended him for a record 324 games for violating its domestic violence and sexual assault policy — a decision he would immediately appeal — Bauer sued the woman who would be the chief witness in the resulting arbitration battle.

Amid such pressure, one of the three accusers decided unexpectedly this past summer that she no longer wanted to participate in the arbitration battle, citing “personal and family matters,” according to records reviewed by The Washington Post.

The latest chapter in Bauer’s saga is nearing its end. Over seven months, an arbitrator, tasked with determining whether to uphold or reduce Bauer’s two-season suspension, has examined MLB’s case against the pitcher. That arbitrator’s decision, expected within weeks, not only will determine Bauer’s future but will affect the Dodgers’ payroll — and help determine whether accusers will be willing to cooperate as MLB investigators try to root alleged abusers from the game.

The arbitration hearing has been shrouded in secrecy. But The Post used previously unreported public records, confidential legal materials and interviews with people with firsthand knowledge, including one of the accusers who testified, to shed light on proceedings that have been as in-depth as a trial — with roughly two dozen witnesses, reams of evidence and a battalion of hired legal guns on each side. For MLB, those reinforcements include a former federal prosecutor known for taking down the leader of a sex cult.

At least two of Bauer’s accusers testified during the hearing, records and interviews show. They appeared via Zoom from MLB headquarters, in under-oath and transcribed testimony subject to cross-examination from Bauer’s lead attorney, Shawn Holley.

Through subpoenas and public records requests, both sides — Bauer and the players union on one, MLB and his accusers on the other — amassed evidence they touted as proof that the other is lying, records show.

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Among those materials: a recording of a phone conversation between Bauer and his California accuser, who placed the call at the direction of police. During the 28-minute recording, obtained by The Post, Bauer acknowledged hitting the woman, who was hospitalized afterward, but expressed surprise at her injuries and suggested he was following her lead during the encounter. Bauer has publicly denied striking her.

Records reviewed by The Post show the hearing also included exhaustive back-and-forth over a video showing the California woman beside a sleeping Bauer the morning after the alleged assault. In the Snapchat video, which she filmed, the woman is smiling and does not have visible injuries. Other photos she took that morning, including hours before and shortly afterward, did show injuries to her face.

Bauer’s lawyers argued she “buried” the video during a restraining order hearing last year because it would have exonerated him. The woman, though, denied hiding the existence of the video from anybody, according to arbitration records reviewed by The Post. And body-camera footage shows she volunteered the video to police detectives during her initial interview with them, explaining at the time that her smile in the footage was part of her “trauma response.” Her lawyer in the restraining order hearing, Lisa Helfend Meyer, did not respond to a request for comment on whether the video was turned over to Bauer’s lawyers during that proceeding.

The video was dissected by both sides during the arbitration hearing, according to records reviewed by The Post, with lawyers debating the meaning of her smile and whether her injuries weren’t visible because of lighting issues or the time it takes for bruises to appear. Holley seized on the video as evidence that the California woman concocted her story for financial gain, which Bauer also claimed in his lawsuit against her. The woman denied any such plot and filed a counterclaim against Bauer for sexual battery, and the lawsuit is ongoing.

Records reviewed by The Post show Bauer’s penchant for legal retaliation has been a central concern of MLB during its investigation and the arbitration hearing.

It is against MLB’s domestic violence policy to “engage in conduct which is aimed at, or has the effect of, intimidating or tampering with” a witness or alleged victim in an investigation. In an agreement between MLB and a potential witness in the hearing, reviewed by The Post, MLB stated that if Bauer were to file a “frivolous or any other legal proceeding” against that witness based on their participation in the investigation, MLB would seek to have Bauer disciplined for violating the policy.

Bauer’s representatives did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A spokesman for MLB declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the arbitration proceedings.

The other accuser known to have testified in the Bauer hearing is a woman from Columbus, Ohio, who previously alleged in an article in The Post that he repeatedly choked her unconscious, slapped and anally penetrated her without her consent over the course of a years-long relationship. The Post is not identifying her or Bauer’s other accusers; it is The Post’s policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they ask to be named.

In a recent interview, the Columbus woman said she was constantly reminded of her alleged abuser, whether it be by his investigator calling her former acquaintances, seeing fans wearing Bauer jerseys when she attended a minor league game this summer or retired MLB pitcher Curt Schilling saying on a podcast that Bauer’s punishment wasn’t deserved because “nothing happened.”

“Unfortunately this is now something that, for the last year and a half, I’ve had to deal with and I’ve had to think about and I’ve had to relive it,” the woman said. “I don’t get to forget the worst thing that happened to me.”

An ‘overwhelming’ hearing

Bauer was at the top of his sport before the 2021 season, when he signed a three-year deal worth $102 million. It was only months later, in May 2021, that a California woman told police that Bauer had choked her unconscious and then repeatedly punched her during sex, derailing Bauer’s career.

A judge denied the woman a restraining order, and a police investigation ended with no charges being filed. Bauer sued the woman, claiming she had orchestrated a scheme to extort him. But by then, two other women had come forward, detailing to The Post allegations of similar abuse. After its own investigation, MLB suspended Bauer in April for two seasons.

MLB’s public announcement of Bauer’s punishment was light on explanation. MLB only said that after a “lengthy investigation,” it was suspending Bauer for violating the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy it has with the players union.

The policy precludes “physical or sexual violence” and defines sexual assault as a “nonconsensual sex act” such as “when the victim is asleep, unconscious or legally incapable of consent.” The allegations of all three women included that Bauer choked them unconscious and was violent toward them during sex.

Bauer again declared his innocence and said he and his legal team “expect to prevail” in their appeal. Since then, there have only been rare public glimpses of the arbitration hearing, which began in May.

In August, Holley, Bauer’s attorney, disclosed during an unrelated court proceeding that the hearing had 22 witnesses scheduled, featured “substantial documentary evidence” and was expected to last until October or November. Holley, who was attempting to delay the rape trial of another client, actor Danny Masterson, called her obligations in the Bauer hearing “overwhelming and extremely time-consuming.”

“It is a trial,” said Holley, who first gained fame as part of O.J. Simpson’s legal team and has since represented a long list of celebrities.

The hearing has focused on the allegations of “the three accusers” who publicly detailed their allegations against Bauer, according to an MLB subpoena obtained by The Post. In an interview with The Post, the woman from Columbus described what she saw as a last-ditch effort by Bauer to embarrass or intimidate her before she testified. She said Holley’s private investigator contacted former acquaintances with no relation to the case to ask about her dating history, including whether she had past relationships with professional athletes.

Dodgers star Trevor Bauer, on leave amid assault probe, was subject of previous protection order

She shared with The Post a screenshot of a message she said was sent to her by her former manager at a bar. “Yo some investigator guy called me asking about you ... and like asked if I knew who you dated or had sex with with!” the former boss wrote.

The woman wrote back that it was Bauer’s investigator, adding, “I now know why women don’t come forward with this s---.”

She still participated in the hearing. Those proceedings were different from previous high-profile arbitration hearings in that they were remote, per the apparent preference of the arbitrator hired by MLB and its union, Martin Scheinman.

Scheinman has said he takes precautions to make sure virtual witnesses are not being coached. A similar concern resulted in Bauer’s accusers being put alone in MLB offices for testimony, which Holley then picked apart during cross-examination. The Columbus woman said the experience caused her to break down in tears during her testimony. “It’s never fun to discuss super intimate details of your life, let alone with 20 people on Zoom screens,” the woman said. MLB eventually sent in a lawyer to sit in the same room as her, she said.

That lawyer, records and interviews show, was Moira Penza, a specialist in complex legal sagas involving alleged sexual assault. Penza is a former federal prosecutor who helped obtain the conviction of NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere. She is a partner in the firm of Beth Wilkinson, who recently investigated Washington’s NFL team. Wilkinson’s firm, court records show, has assisted MLB in the Bauer matter.

Penza joined an MLB effort against Bauer that has been led by Moira Weinberg, MLB’s senior vice president of investigations and herself a former Manhattan prosecutor. Penza declined to comment.

After parts of two days, the Columbus woman said, her testimony was over. “The relief I felt afterwards, it was amazing,” she said. “To finally get my part out — to have done my part and be done.”

But another of Bauer’s accusers decided mid-arbitration that she no longer wanted to be involved. That woman, from Cleveland, sought a restraining order against Bauer in 2020, The Post previously reported, after he allegedly punched and choked her during sex without her consent and sent her menacing messages. She dismissed her petition for the restraining order after Bauer’s attorneys accused her of extortion. Following the article, Bauer released hundreds of text messages from her that partially exposed her identity. He then reposted the messages with the identifying information redacted.

Records reviewed by The Post showed the Cleveland woman indicated in June that she would not participate in the arbitration. By August, she had asked not to be contacted further by MLB or the players union.

An attorney who represented her, Joseph Darwal, did not respond to a request for comment.

A taped call

Bauer’s most exhaustive fight has been against his accuser in California. He says she lured him into increasingly rough sex with her — including in text messages in which she urged him to give her “all the pain” — to “lay the groundwork for a financial settlement.”

The woman has fought back, denying any such plot and doubling down on efforts to prove her allegations true.

Months after the law enforcement investigation ended with no charges, their dueling legal claims pried loose new details, some of which contradict Bauer’s public narrative about the case and caused her lawyers to suggest it was mishandled by police.

Bauer said in his lawsuit that in pursuit of her alleged scheme, the woman “pursued bogus criminal” charges against him and filed a “false police report.” Body-camera footage reviewed by The Post, however, shows that during the woman’s first interaction with Pasadena police May 18, 2021 — three days after the alleged assault and after hospital personnel reported her injuries to police — she was not initially willing to pursue charges.

“Everyone’s telling me to press charges and stuff, but it’s like, my life changes, his life changes,” said the woman, whose eyes and face appeared bruised and scratched in the footage of the police interview. “So I guess I’m just, like, confused on what to do.”

The detectives urged her to call Bauer that day in their presence. “We could arrest him based on what you kind of told us already,” said Det. Derek Locklin, who explained that without more evidence, “it’s going to be a he-said, she-said type thing.”

The woman said she also didn’t feel ready to take that step because she was “pretty shaken up still.” But she later decided to make the call, which police recorded that May 22. In the call, she confronted Bauer about allegedly punching her in the head and vagina.

Bauer didn’t deny punching her — though he said he “just can’t even figure out how, like, the result was what it was” — and on a couple of instances appeared to acknowledge it.

“I didn’t feel like I hit you that hard, you know?” Bauer said.

At another point, the woman asked Bauer, “How many times do you think you, like, hit my head?”

“I’m not sure,” Bauer said. “It wasn’t that many.”

Bauer suggested that he was following the woman’s lead in having rough sex with her and that he frequently checked to make sure she was okay.

“You seemed fine, because, like when you had come to ... it seemed like you were, like, you know, normal,” Bauer said.

But the woman, who described going “in and out of consciousness,” pushed back on his claim that everything was consensual. “I don’t remember you ever asking me. ... The punching thing, I didn’t want that,” the woman said.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m very, like, I’m sorry that — I don’t know, like, what to say,” Bauer responded. “... I feel your pain. I’m, like, in pain, too. And like I never wanted it to get that to that point, like — I can feel like we’ll never get to that point again. I promise that. I know that doesn’t change anything.”

“I’m hurting, too,” Bauer added.

Bauer also appeared to offer financial assistance, saying: “You mention missing work. ... I want to make sure you’re okay, you know? And, honestly, like, if I can help ... is there something I can do?”

But Pasadena detectives then soured on the case, as shown in body-camera footage of a second visit to the woman’s home in early June 2021. By then, police had, in searching through the woman’s phone, discovered messages that Bauer’s lawyers would later seize on as evidence of a financial plot.

In messages to friends before the alleged assault, the woman had boasted of meeting Bauer, saying she had her “hooks in him,” and riffed about prenuptial agreements, Range Rovers and having Bauer give her $50 million.

The woman protested to detectives that the messages were just jokes referring to marrying a wealthy athlete. “I would never purposefully set myself up for something like this, like, thinking, ‘Oh, if I get him to beat the s--- out of me, you know, and let him do whatever he wants, then I could do this,’ ” the woman said.

But the detectives suggested the messages meant Bauer was not being arrested in the near future — and probably never would be. “This creates a large reasonable doubt to where ... I don’t know how we could convince a jury to convict him,” Det. Brian Murphy said.

“It really lays the groundwork for looking like a setup,” Det. Kimberly Jones said.

Among the evidence the detectives cited: that the woman’s search history showed she had Googled “set-ups” days before Bauer’s alleged assault.

The woman later emailed the detectives evidence that she had been searching how to spell that phrase while writing a social media post for her job. But Bauer cited the Google search in his legal complaint as proof of the woman’s plot against him.

The detectives also asked the woman whether her encounter with Bauer was sex work, which she denied.

The woman’s attorney, Fred Thiagarajah, emailed Jones after hearing about the interview, complaining that his client “felt more like a suspect than a victim.” That July, Thiagarajah said in an email to the detective that they were not calling back other alleged victims.

“These are two tangible leads involving prior victim(s) that can either corroborate or impeach [my client’s] statements,” Thiagarajah wrote, “and yet for some reason, no follow-up is being conducted.”

The Pasadena Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The department presented its findings from the investigation to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office the following month. Prosecutors announced in February that they would not pursue a case against Bauer, saying that following “a thorough review of all the available evidence,” they “were unable to prove the relevant charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Following that announcement, Bauer for the first time explicitly denied hitting the woman in a YouTube video titled “The Truth.”

“I never punched this woman in the face. I never punched her in the vagina,” Bauer said. “... And while we did have consensual rough sex, the disturbing acts and conduct she described simply did not occur.”

The arbitrator’s final decision is unlikely to be the end of the legal saga involving Bauer. If the ruling goes against him, he could turn to the courts to attempt to overturn the decision.

A judge also recently allowed the California woman to continue pursuing her counterclaim against Bauer, setting up their dueling civil claims to head toward a trial — this one in public.

Her current attorney, Bryan Freedman, declined to make her available for an interview. But in social media posts, she described her battle with Bauer — and her trips to testify in the arbitration hearing — as transformative.

She wrote in one post: “To my summer stints in NYC — you brought out a fire in me that I didn’t know existed.”