FIU baseball star Garrett Wittels charged in rape case in Bahama - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

FIU baseball star Garrett Wittels charged in rape case in Bahamas

Miami (SunSentinel.com) - FIU baseball star Garrett Wittels and a group of friends were arrested in the Bahamas last week and charged with the rape of two 17-year-old girls.

The incident happened at the Atlantis Resort and Casino in Paradise Island on Dec. 20.

Wittels and two friends were each released on $10,000 bail after a court hearing Thursday.

The others involved in the incident are Robert Rothschild, 21, Jonathan Oberti, 21, Steven Tromberg, 21, and David Shapiro, 21, according to Bahamian Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez in Nassau. All five are from Northeast Miami-Dade County.

All the men were arrested Dec. 20 for allegedly raping the teenagers. Wittels, Rothschild and Oberti were charged before Gomez three days later.

Gomez granted each of the three men a cash bond of $10,000. A preliminary hearing is slated for April 18 before Magistrate Derence Rolle-Davis, Gomez said.

Tromberg and Shapiro are still being held in the Bahamas pending a hearing that could take place as early as Tuesday.

The Bahamian court was closed Monday due to the Junkanoo celebrations, which feature a festive street parade with performers dressed in elaborate crepe paper costumes and ringing cowbells, banging drums and blaring horns.

Wittels, 20, holds the second-longest hitting streak in NCAA history, and was expected to make a run at breaking that record when the baseball season begins in February.

In a telephone interview Monday, Wittels' father, Bay Harbor Islands orthopedist Michael Wittels, confirmed that Garrett had been arrested in the Bahamas. He told The Miami Herald that when all the facts come out, his son would be vindicated.

"Anyone can accuse anyone of anything at any time," Michael Wittels said. "He's not doing well, obviously. He's blown away. He's devastated that someone would accuse him of this."

Garrett Wittels met his friends in the Bahamas on Dec. 18. All five attended high school in Northeast Miami-Dade -- either Michael Krop High or Miami Country Day School.

On Twitter, on Dec. 17, Wittels tweeted to the four friends: "Less than 24 hours." On Dec. 18, he tweeted "About to take off #ATLANTIS. Back Wednesday." Then he didn't tweet for a week.

Attempts to reach Shapiro, Tromberg, Oberti, and Rothschild were unsuccessful Monday afternoon.

A source close to the investigation said that blood samples for DNA testing were taken from all five men.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said surveillance cameras in public areas of the hotel captured interaction between the suspects and alleged victims.

According to the source, the videos show the girls sitting at a bar in the Atlantis Hotel and Resort, drinking, and kissing one another, before gesturing to the suspects to join them.

"They drank too much. They went to the guys' room. The girls were together. The girls are saying they can't remember anything," the source said.

One of the girls threw up on herself, and was given a T-shirt to wear by one of the young men, the source said.

The father of one of the girls called police after his daughter and her companion returned to their hotel room, the source said.

In the Bahamas, the age of legal consent for sex is 16. But the drinking age is 18.

According to Michael Wittels, Garrett and his friends met the girls in question at the casino, and they later followed the young men willingly to a private party.

Surveillance video exists, Michael Wittels added, showing the girls -- and not the accused -- were the aggressors, at least in public.

"The next morning, they found out who [Wittels] was, and that was the road they took," Michael Wittels said. "He hasn't been found guilty of anything. I hope [the media] doesn't hang him for merely an allegation. That's all this is."

Michael Wittels was adamant that Garrett's arrest was strictly a personal matter, and not one involving Florida International University, since the arrest occurred far off campus and while Wittels was on winter break.

Still, Michael Wittels said it was too soon to know what effect the arrest might have on Wittels' eligibility for FIU's 2011 season. He is set to resume his chase of Robin Ventura's NCAA record 58-game hitting streak the weekend of Feb. 18-20, but it's not clear what steps, if any, the NCAA will take.

FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said the department has been made aware of the situation, but has no comment at this time.

"We will continue to gather any possible information as it becomes available," Garcia said.

A call to the NCAA's communications office was not returned on Monday.

In FIU's final game last season, Wittels extended his hitting streak to 56 games -- two short of the NCAA record established by Ventura at Oklahoma State in 1987.

If he is available to play, Wittels would have a chance to tie and break the record when FIU opens its season in a three-game series against Southeastern Louisiana Feb. 18 to 20 at FIU.

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