The trial of former New York Mets second baseman Wally Backman began in Riverhead Town Court Tuesday, where Mr. Backman is facing charges of second-degree harassment and fourth-degree criminal mischief stemming from a domestic incident on Goodale Court on Aug. 30, 2019.
The case is a bench trial, meaning there is no jury and Judge Lori Hulse will decide the case.
Mr. Backman, 60, of Deer Park was Amanda Byrnes’ boyfriend for about two months when the incident occurred. He was arrested after he allegedly pushed Ms. Byrnes against a wall in her house and proceeded to grab and twist her left hand, causing pain and a laceration that required medical attention, according to the criminal complaint she filed against him. Mr. Backman claimed she stole his cell phone.
Ms. Byrnes, 39, of Riverhead has since filed a civil suit against Mr. Backman, accusing him of physical abuse and sexual harassment. She claims he twisted her wrist to take her cell phone so she could not dial 911, and that her pacemaker was displaced when was pushed into the wall. She is expected to testify against Mr. Backman in the criminal case, as well.
Mr. Backman’s defense attorneys, William Keahon and Stephen Civardi, say that Ms. Byrnes has done this before, having accused several other boyfriends of abusing her, and then stealing their cell phones.
“Every time a boyfriend realizes how crazy she is, he wants to break up or leave, and she won’t won’t let him leave, she steals the keys, the phone, and calls the police,” Mr. Keahon told reporters outside court. He said Mr. Backman wanted to break up with her.
Assistant District Attorney Kyle Grasser said the incidents cited by Mr. Backman’s attorneys “took place between 2007 and 2009 and are not indicative of who she is now.”
“Amanda has an imperfect life, as we all do,” John Ray, Ms. Byrnes’ attorney in the civic case, said outside court Tuesday. “She’s not on trial for her imperfect life. Even imperfect people cannot be beaten, even imperfect people cannot be assaulted, nor in any way abused as she was. That’s our position, and that’s what this case is about.”
Mr. Backman recently managed the Long Island Ducks to the Atlantic League Championship and has interviews pending with three Major League teams, according to his attorney.
Michael Pfaff, the president and general manager of the Long Island Ducks, was in court in support of Mr. Backman.
“We believe in Wally’s innocence and we feel that when he’s been given his due process, he’ll be proven innocent,” he said outside the court.
Mr. Grasser said Mr. Backman drank alcohol heavily that night, but Mr. Keahon said a door bell video taken that night shows Mr. Backman on the night of the incident and he doesn’t appear to be intoxicated.
The case will continue Wednesday.
Mr. Backman was hired by the Mets for the 2010 season to manage the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones. He climbed the organizational depth chart to manage the Class AAA affiliate in Las Vegas until that partnership ended in September 2016. Mr. Backman has been quoted as saying he was pushed out of the position. Mr. Backman played the first nine years of his major league career with the Mets, helping the team win its last World Series title in 1986.