Pirates pitcher Felipe Vazquez faces 21 new child sex-related charges
Prosecutors filed 21 new charges Tuesday against suspended Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Felipe Vazquez after investigators found evidence of child pornography on devices they say he owned.
Vazquez, 28, was ordered to stand trial Tuesday on 10 counts of child pornography, 10 counts of unlawful contact with a minor and a single charge of corruption of minors in addition to sex crime accusations filed in September in connection with the alleged assault of a 13-year-old girl in Scottdale.
“They had exchanged photographs … and subsequently did engage in sexual intercourse in his vehicle,” testified Trooper Michael Thompson during a nearly two-hour preliminary hearing.
Both sets of charges involve the same girl, who now lives in Florida, Thompson said.
Vazquez was arrested in September on a warrant issued by Florida police, accusing the All-Star pitcher of sending sexually explicit photos to the girl and soliciting sex via text message. Hours later, he was charged with sex crimes by Pennsylvania state police related to allegations that he engaged in sexual activity in August 2017 with her in Scottdale.
A request by Florida authorities to have Vazquez extradited to Lee County, near Fort Myers, was denied by a Westmoreland County judge Tuesday.
“He will stay until the charges are disposed of in this county,” Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway said.
Thompson testified about a few messages between Vazquez and the girl and the sexual contact alleged to have occurred outside her home. During an interview at his Pittsburgh apartment during his arrest, Vazquez showed Thompson images on his laptop that the girl had sent him, according to testimony.
“He wanted to show me things that she had sent him,” Thompson testified.
Seven images and three videos of the girl in various stages of nudity were found on an iPhone XS and Apple MacBook Pro troopers seized from Vazquez during the investigation, he testified. The pair continued communicating up until his arrest.
His attorneys offered to post $1 million bail and have Vazquez be placed on electronic monitoring at a home in Westmoreland County. Attorney Robert Wheelock argued that Vazquez would not flee because of his talent and potential to resume playing baseball professionally. His sister attended the hearing in support of him.
“He’s got easily 10 years left in him that are going to be extremely lucrative,” Wheelock said.
Vazquez was expected to challenge extradition to Florida, he said. He claimed efforts by Florida prosecutors were “legally deficient.”
Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar argued that no bail should be set, in part, because Vazquez faces deportation to Venezuela, if convicted, and because he is a “significant flight risk.” He has permanent resident status in the United States, Lazar said.
“He is a man of considerable means,” Lazar said, listing contracts worth millions of dollars Vazquez had with the Pirates during the past couple of years.
“When you’re 13 years old, you don’t get to consent to having sex with an adult male,” Lazar argued. “She’s 13, and he’s a professional baseball player.”
District Judge Charles Moore sided with the prosecution.
“I’m not comfortable putting him in a position where he’s going to be out in our community,” he said.
Wheelock said after the hearing he plans to take up the bail issue with a Common Pleas judge.