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Wednesday, July 16
Wife says she exaggerated account of alleged assault

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- A jury found former Houston Astros shortstop Julio Lugo innocent Wednesday of banging his wife's head against their vehicle after she testified in his misdemeanor assault trial that she exaggerated the story and he didn't mean to hurt her.

Mabely Lugo let out a big sigh and smiled when a six-person jury returned the verdict after deliberating for 35 minutes Wednesday afternoon. Lugo's mother, Rhina Lugo, hugged her son's wife as she began crying.

"I was very upset, confused,'' Mabely Lugo said of an April 30 argument she had with her husband at Minute Maid Park. "He wasn't at fault.''

Julio Lugo, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, said he was pleased with the verdict.

"The truth was going to come out,'' he said.

Prosecutors had asked the jury to find Lugo guilty of assaulting his wife as the couple argued about their marriage outside the ballpark. Lugo was arrested after the Astros played the Braves and released from the team days later.

"The courts have made a decision,'' said Astros spokesman Rob Matwick. "He's had his day and that's the end of the story.''

Assistant Harris County District Attorney Catherine Evans told jurors Mabely Lugo signed a sworn statement that her husband grabbed her by the hair and forced her head into their vehicle at Minute Maid Park and told the same story to nine individuals involved in the case. Mabely Lugo testified Tuesday she had exaggerated the account and that her husband wasn't trying to harm her.

Evans told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday that it is not uncommon for victims of domestic violence to change their stories.

"She was not happy to be here,'' Evans said. "She is protective of her husband. She is anxious. She is nervous. I don't blame her. How sad is it to hear a woman say over and over, 'I hit myself with the truck. I provoked him. It was my fault.'''

Defense attorney Chris Tritico told jurors Julio Lugo didn't mean to hurt his wife as they argued and was only trying to defend himself.

"Julio Lugo committed no assault,'' Tritico said. "She didn't need any help because she wasn't assaulted.''

Tritico said Julio Lugo never slammed his wife's head against their vehicle and that she ended up with a bump on her forehead when she hit her head on the couple's SUV as she pulled away from her husband.

Mabely Lugo was simply trying to correct an exaggeration of the facts during her testimony, Tritico said.

Evans said she first learned Mabely Lugo's story had changed when she arrived at court Tuesday for opening statements in the case.

"She had never, ever said it didn't happen until yesterday,'' Evans said of Mabely Lugo. "I felt he committed the crime. I still believe that.''

Julio Lugo has since signed a one-year deal with the Devil Rays and the couple has filed for divorce.

But on Wednesday, Mabely Lugo said she and her husband may reconcile.

"We still love each other,'' she said. "I don't want to go back. I want to go forward.''

Lugo could have faced up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine if convicted.

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