MILWAUKEE – A former college classmate sued Ryan Braun, saying the Brewers slugger sought his help in fighting a failed drug test, balked on paying him and then disparaged him when asked why their friendship soured.
Ralph Sasson, a Milwaukee law student, said Braun’s agent hired him in November 2011 to do legal research aimed at clearing Braun after the left fielder tested positive for steroid use. The agent later asked him to investigate the man who collected Braun’s urine, Dino Laurenzi Jr., and Braun personally asked him to prank call two journalists working on a story about the failed test, according to the lawsuit filed last month in Milwaukee County court.
Braun was the first baseball player to successfully challenge a drug-related penalty in a grievance. He accepted a longer, 65-game suspension last month amid reports of ties to a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs to major leaguers but did not publicly admit using banned drugs.
Sasson said the initial deal called for him to be paid $2,000 for his research and $5,000 if Braun was exonerated. But Braun and his agent, Onesimo Balelo, balked at paying him the full amount after a baseball arbitrator overturned the left fielder’s 50-game suspension in February 2012. Sasson eventually got paid, but he said his relationship with Braun soured and the baseball player lied when asked why.
“Braun has engaged in advancing the proposition that the reason for his falling out with Sasson was because Sasson had been rude to staff at Miller Park; Braun had received word that complaints had been filed due to Sasson’s abhorrent behavior; that Sasson had “acted like an ass”; and that Sasson is crazy,” the lawsuit says.
It seeks more than $10,000 for defamation and emotional distress.
“This lawsuit is an unfortunate attempt to capitalize on Ryan’s recent press attention for taking responsibility for his actions,” Braun’s attorney, Howard Weitzman, said in an email to The Associated Press during the weekend. “The factual allegations are untrue and the legal claims have absolutely no merit. We believe the lawsuit will be dismissed.”
Weitzman did not immediately return a message Monday.
According to his lawsuit, Sasson and Braun had been friends since junior high school and attended the University of Miami together. Sasson said Balelo did not mention Braun’s name when he initially hired Sasson, but Sasson believed the player he was working to clear was his friend because there was no reason otherwise for an agent of Balelo’s stature to call “a law student with very little practical experience.”
Sasson said Braun later confirmed he was the player who failed the drug test.
The law student said he wrote a legal brief on the matter and then, at Balelo’s request, ran a background check on Laurenzi. Braun’s initial suspension was overturned after the outfielder’s supporters showed Laurenzi collected the sample on a Saturday but did not send it to the lab until Monday.
Baseball’s drug agreement states that “absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected.”