Wednesday, April 19, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden was arrested early Monday morning in Miami Beach, Fla., and charged with driving under the influence after reportedly getting into an altercation with his fiance and then running a stop sign.

Bowden, 44, plans to plead not guilty when he appears in a Miami-Dade County court at a date that has yet to be determined. Nationals president Tony Tavares said the club will take no action while the case is pending, and Bowden is expected to rejoin the team Friday when it returns to Washington.

Bowden, who remained in Florida yesterday for a previously scheduled scouting trip, did not return phone calls. He released a statement yesterday afternoon confirming his arrest.

“I deeply regret any embarrassment that my arrest may cause the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball,” Bowden said. “On the advice of legal counsel, I will have no further comment regarding this incident until the court proceedings are complete.”

Nationals manager Frank Robinson learned of Bowden’s arrest yesterday afternoon, shortly before most players arrived at Citizens Bank Park for the opener of a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

“It’s a regrettable incident,” Robinson said. “I’m sure that these guys support Jim like I do, today and in the future on this thing.”

Robinson held a brief team meeting before batting practice to inform his players of the incident. Most were not aware of it before being told by Robinson, and several high-ranking club officials didn’t even know about it until late yesterday afternoon, more than 36 hours after the fact.

“I was completely stunned,” one player said. “I had no idea.”

Bowden’s arrest comes at a particularly bad time, with the Nationals off to a rough start on the field just as ownership is about to be named. Major League Baseball in the next week is expected to name a new owner, who must decide whether to retain top club officials like Tavares, Bowden and Robinson.

Bowden’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season. A source involved with one group bidding on the club said yesterday that the GM’s arrest likely wouldn’t doom his chances of keeping his job.

“This in and of itself should not be a contributing factor in anyone’s decision whether or not to retain him,” the source said. “There’s never been any question about his sobriety, so it seems like an isolated incident. I’d ask around to see if it’s isolated or if it’s a real problem. Jim Bowden’s future will depend on whether the new owner feels like they can find someone who can do a better job.”

The incident occurred early Monday morning in the trendy South Beach area of Miami, about 10 hours after the Nationals defeated the Florida Marlins 7-5.

According to police reports, Bowden and his fiance, Joy Browning, were arguing outside a restaurant around 2:10 a.m. when two officers approached them. After assuring the officers that everything was OK, Bowden and Browning, 36, got into a gray 2006 Cadillac STS and drove off.

At 2:20 a.m., according to the reports, another set of police officers pulled Bowden over after he ran through a stop sign on Collins Avenue. Officers said they detected “a strong smell of an alcoholic beverage” emanating from the vehicle and that Bowden, who was driving, had “bloodshot eyes, glassy eyes, flush red face and slurred speech.”

Police said Bowden refused to take a breath-alcohol test, which under Florida’s implied consent law requires an automatic, six-month suspension of his California-issued driver’s license. He failed field-sobriety tests and was arrested because, police said, he “was unable to operate a motor vehicle safely.”

Florida law allows DUI arrests for breath-alcohol levels of .08 or above or for impairment of normal faculties. If found guilty, Bowden faces up to six months in prison, a fine up to $500, 50 hours of mandatory community service and up to one year of probation.

Upon arresting Bowden, police said he had scratches on his left cheek and a cut on his right ear. That prompted them to attempt to arrest Browning on charges of domestic violence. Browning, according to police, refused to exit the car or put down her cell phone. When one of the officers finally confiscated the phone, Browning tried to retrieve it and struck him twice.

She will be arraigned May 8 on two charges of resisting arrest (one of them a felony) and one charge of battery.

Bowden was hired by MLB to run the Nationals on Nov. 2, 2004, one year after he was fired by the Cincinnati Reds following 11 seasons as GM. Originally hired on an interim basis, Bowden has had his contract extended for six months three times. He signed his latest extension March 9.

“I have talked to Jim Bowden about the regrettable incident that took place Sunday night,” Tavares said in a statement. “The Washington Nationals will monitor the situation as it works its way through the court system and will not make any comment or take any action until the legal issues are resolved.”

• Staff writer Tim Lemke and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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