MLS: No inducements by Timbers in Polo case

An investigation by an independent law firm on behalf of Major League Soccer concluded that the Portland Timbers didn’t offer financial inducements to Genessis Alarcón, the estranged wife of former midfielder Andy Polo, to not press charges over an alleged incident of domestic violence by Polo.

The investigation also concluded that while the Timbers didn’t report the incident to the league office, as is required by the league’s constitution, it was done out of a lack of knowledge of the league’s rules, and wasn’t intended as a cover-up. Still, the failure to report the incident resulted in the Timbers being fined $25,000.

In a statement, MLS said, “The investigators concluded that the Timbers’ offer to assist Genessis Alarcon, Mr. Polo’s former domestic partner, and her children was not intended to induce, and did not induce, Ms. Alarcon to refrain from pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Polo. The report also concluded that while the Timbers should have reported the May 23, 2021 incident to MLS, there was no evidence that the Timbers attempted to hide or conceal the incident.

MLS added in its statement, “Although the investigation found no evidence that the Timbers organization influenced Ms. Alarcon’s decision to press charges and that they did not attempt to conceal the incident, prompt reporting is critical to League oversight, addressing potential misconduct, and ensuring that players and their families are referred to appropriate resources, including potentially the League’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.”

Polo is not facing criminal charges over the incident but he and Peregrine Sports LLC, the parent company of the Timbers, have been listed as co-defendants in a domestic violence lawsuit filed by Alarcón in Oregon State Court. Polo is facing claims of assault, battery and negligence while Peregrine Sports and the Timbers are facing a claim of negligence.

Alarcón’s attorney, Michael Fuller, issued the following statement to ESPN: “Considering this was an internal investigation, those findings are not surprising to us. I’m not questioning their integrity, or their independence. I’m just saying it doesn’t surprise me. In my prior internal investigations, we hire independent judges, and outside counsel who don’t know the identity of the parties involved, and we present them with neutral fact patterns and ask them to draw conclusions. That wasn’t done.”

In Proskauer Rose’s report, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, the law firm said it interviewed nine people; five Timbers employees, its Chief Executive Officer, Christine Mascal, Esq. (Mr. Polo’s attorney, who the Timbers retained for Mr. Polo), Mr. Polo, and Ms. Alarcon.

In addition, the investigators reviewed text messages, emails, and other relevant documents provided by the Timbers, the MLS Constitution, and nine audio recordings made by Alarcón.

“The investigators concluded that the Timbers did not intend to induce, and did not induce, Ms. Alarcon to refrain from pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Polo,” the report stated.

The investgation added: “More specifically, the investigators found that: (i) the Timbers’ provision of assistance to Ms. Alarcon after the May 23, 2021 incident was not intended to dissuade her from pursuing charges against Mr. Polo, and Ms. Alarcon understood she would receive assistance from the Club regardless of whether she pursued the charges against Mr. Polo; (ii) no one from the Timbers conditioned assistance to her on her agreement to forgo pursuing criminal charges, or attempted to dissuade Ms. Alarcon from doing so; and (iii) the decision to pursue charges was entirely up to Ms. Alarcon and she did not want to pursue a criminal case against Mr. Polo.

“As to the second question, the investigators found that the Timbers should have reported the May 23, 2021 incident to MLS, but that their failure to do so was the result of a lack of an understanding of the MLS Constitution, rather than an intent to conceal the incident.”

According to an incident report obtained by ESPN from the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, on May 23, 2021, Polo was “issued a citation in lieu of arrest for harassment after grabbing onto [Alarcon’s] wrist.”

The citation is classified as a B misdemeanor. The police report adds, “Genesis said Andy and she had been arguing for the past two days. she told me today she was home in the kitchen cleaning when Andy came home. She said Andy wanted to take her cellphone back because he wanted to take back everything, he has ever given her. She told him she did not have it. She said during the argument Andy reached out and grabbed her right wrist and scratched it. She showed me the underside of her right wrist and I saw what appeared to be a light red abrasion.”

Alarcón also made an audio recording of what took place and played it for the police. Polo has said he didn’t argue with Alarcón, nor did he grabbed or touch her.

The report goes on to detail that two Timbers employees, Gabriel Jaimes, who is the Players Affairs and Professional Development Manager, and the team’s head of security, Jim McCausland, who is a former Portland Police Bureau detective, later arrived at the residence. The report reads that “[McCausland] told me he would make sure that peace would be maintained inside the house. He said if he needed to move Andy or Genesis out of the home to maintain safety and security, he would take care of it. He assured me no further incidents would take place.”

Alarcón made her allegations public in February on the Peruvian television show, “Magaly TV, La Firme”, where she stated, “[Polo] pulled my hair. I fell to the floor. He slapped me in the face and gave me a black eye.”

Following Alarcón’s public allegations, Portland suspended Polo from team activities and then on Feb. 10 cut ties with him. The club had picked up Polo’s contract option in December despite knowledge of the May 2021 incident. It later emerged that the MLS Players Association filed a grievance on Polo’s behalf, and MLS paid Polo the money left on his contract. He has since signed with Peruvian club Universitario Deportes, but his contract is contingent on him resolving his legal issues, according to a team executive.

Neither Alarcón nor the Washington County District Attorney’s office opted to pursue criminal charges against Polo, although the lawsuit remains pending.

Earlier this month Alarcón told ESPN that two Timbers representatives, later identified as McCausland and Mascal, met with her two weeks after the May 23, 2021 incident, and offered inducements for her to drop the charges.

“They were going to help me, and make sure me and my kids didn’t get left on the street,” Alarcón said with the help of a translator. “They were going to make sure that Andy was going to be responsible for me and my kids, but it never happened. I was told this would be in exchange for not pressing charges.”

MLS’s report confirmed that the meeting with Alarcón, a friend who acted as translator, McCausland and Mascal took place, but concluded no inducements were offered by the Timbers. This conclusion was reached due to the Timbers providing assistance to Alarcón before and after the May 23, 2021 incident. After listening to a recording of the meeting, which lasted nearly 55 minutes, the investigation concluded it didn’t include an offer of inducements, and that Alarcón understood that the decision not to pursue charges was hers alone.

But in the conversation, a recording of which was obtained by ESPN, Mascal and McCausland discuss with Alarcón that they’ve arranged for Polo to pay her $400 per month for living expenses such as food. Alarcón says that’s not enough, and the representatives say they’ll pass the request for more money on to Polo. They also discuss utilizing resources from the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Later, the two representatives discussed the case with Alarcón, with Mascal explaining to Alarcón that with the assault she described, Polo is facing up to a year in jail. Alarcón, with the help of a translator explains that she doesn’t want Polo to go to prison because she loves him.

Mascal then states that what Polo is “trying to do now though is to give you everything you need and to get going in your life here and make it easier on you and your family.” She later tells Alarcón she’s “sorry you’re going through this.”

But later Mascal asks Alarcón that if the District Attorney’s calls Alarcón to let her know. She later says, “The office may call you to see if you want to pursue those charges. And again, you can say ‘Yes, I want to,’ or ‘No, I do not.’ Of course we’re hoping you say, no you did not. But if you decided that you want him to go through the court system, I kind of need to know that.”

Mascal goes on to explain that if Alarcón pursues charges, it will go to a trial that could last as long as two days, and that Alarcón will have to testify before a jury. In addition to up to a year in jail, the representative says Polo could get a fine up to $6,250, and while Polo likely wouldn’t get a year sentence, he would get some jail and be on probation for up to three years.

Mascal then said, “Of course, [Polo] probably doesn’t want to go that route, right? That’s why we’re telling him to get you what you need. Hopefully it doesn’t end up in a trial situation.”

Alarcón respond that the only thing she needs is help to get her on her feet.

Fuller told ESPN that he found the aforementioned exchange problematic.

“Why would the Timbers send that representative over to talk to the crime victim? Why would that lawyer tell the crime victim that they didn’t want her to press charges?,” Fuller said. “Why were they talking about being able to get money from Andy to help her and also that they didn’t want charges to be brought? We’ll see what happens in the civil case.”

As for the failure to report the incident to MLS, the Timber were found to have violated Section 3.D of the MLS Constitution which requires clubs to report to the league “any off-field personal or other conduct known or suspected . . . that may constitute a violation of the League Rules, regardless of how such information came to be known or suspected.”

League rules provide the Commissioner the authority to impose discipline for off-field misconduct, including domestic violence. The report concluded that the Timbers didn’t attempt to hide the incident from anyone, but was down to a lack of understanding about the MLS Constitution.

“On the day of the incident, Gavin Wilkinson, the Club’s General Manager and President of Soccer, reached out to the Club’s in-house legal counsel to inquire as to whether the Club was required to report the incident,” the investigation stated. “Mr. Wilkinson and the Club’s in-house counsel credibly reported that they did not know that they had a duty to report the incident under the MLS Constitution. The investigators found that the failure to report the incident to the League was the result of a lack of an understanding of the MLS Constitution, rather than an intent to conceal it.”


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