A freelance photographer who covered the Minnesota Twins for Twins Daily accused third baseman Miguel Sano of assault on Thursday morning.

Betsy Bissen, whose work has also been prominently seen with the independent St. Paul Saints, revealed Thursday morning on her since-locked Twitter account that Sano had become aggressive toward her following an autograph signing at the FanHQ store at Ridgedale Mall near the end of the 2015 season.

Bissen was shooting the event as a photographer, though not for Twins Daily.

According to Bissen, Sano was flirtatious toward her during the event — which she did not reciprocate — and once it was finished, he grabbed her by the arm and insisted she go with him to the Apple Store. Afterward, Sano told his then-agent Rob Plummer that he needed to use the bathroom prior to leaving, and Bissen describes a struggle that ensued for what she estimates was 10 minutes as he tried to kiss her and drag her through the doorway.  

“When I said no, it should have been the end of it,” Bissen said in her statement, which included the hashtag #MeToo, which is empowering women to speak up in light of increased awareness of sexual assault — especially among men of power. “He should have respected that and stopped. Instead, he hurt me and kept going. …no, he didn’t rape me, but he sure did assault me.”

Bissen said on Twitter that the revelation was never about anything other than easing the burden she has carried for more than two years. The Twins were unaware of the incident, Bissen added, and multiple friends of hers on Twitter corroborated her account of the story being relayed to them long in advance before she went public with the allegations.

In response to the allegations, the Twins released a statement more or less saying they were aware of them, that they were taking them very seriously and would not comment until further investigation had taken place.

Sano, through TMZ.com vehemently denied the allegations. “It never happened,” Sano said in a statement obtained by the website.

“I have the utmost respect for women,” Sano continued, “especially those working in professional sports, and I deeply sympathize with anyone who has experienced sexual harassment. There is no place for it in our society.”

Another story that was shared with Zone Coverage — while by no means a smoking gun in terms of particular indiscretions — isn’t particularly favorable for Sano, either.

Again, these claims could be made by anyone saying that they were at the game, but the details line up. At least in the sense that Sano was with the Lookouts at the time, and they were in town in the midst of a five-game set — roughly three months before the Bissen encounter — against the visiting Jacksonville Suns.

Taking the time to fabricate a story like this — to this detail — seems unlikely.

The potential for damage to Sano’s reputation is obvious. Many powerful men have been removed or suspended from their positions for their indiscretions in recent months, such as Harvey Weinstein, Marshall Faulk, Garrison Keillor and many others. It’s even more damaging when considering where he is on his career and earnings arc relative to the others who’ve seen their careers go down the drain.

But that’s also where the dumpster fire on Twitter in response to this starts to billow up.

Two teammates of Sano’s — well, one former and one current — also spoke up on the matter — and it’s hard to take it as a positive for the third baseman.

Let’s make one thing clear — it’s totally defensible to wait for for the investigation to be completed to really dig into on how to feel about Sano, or perhaps more accurately, to what extent he ought to be punished, if at all.

The court of public opinion isn’t the same as the court of law, however — so these allegations are being taken rather seriously. It isn’t hard to see why.

A symposium on false allegations of rape that studied 136 cases over a 10-year span and found that 5.9 percent were coded as false allegations. It also cites previous research as suggesting somewhere between 2-10 percent is the generally accepted average range.

Now this alleged incident wasn’t a rape, but these figures are also applied/corroborated to sexual assault in a 2012 survey awarded by the US Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.

In short, studies show false accusations do happen — and as I argued on Twitter all day, should be penalized severely for the damage they’re capable of — but they are incredibly rare.

One strange side effect from accusations like this that come out so publicly is that the public reaction is largely negative. Accusations range from “why are they reporting this now if it happened so long ago?” to “they’re just out for the money and fame” and frankly, when logic is applied to any of those — they fall apart pretty quickly.

The “why now” argument falls apart for myriad reasons. First of all, if the assault really happened — why should it matter when it’s reported? It’s not hard to see why they aren’t reported.

According to statistics compiled by RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), only 310 of every 1,000 rapes are reported on average. Only 57 lead to arrests, 11 are referred to prosecutors, seven lead to felony convictions and only six result in perpetrators incarcerated.

Now consider the psychological trauma of having this associated with you.

RAINN also listed the following reasons why victims did not report their assaults to authorities:

  • 20 percent feared retaliation
  • 13 percent did not believe the police would actually help
  • 13 percent believed it was a personal matter
  • 8 percent reported it elsewhere
  • 8 percent believed it was not important enough to report
  • 7 percent did not want the assailant to get in trouble
  • 2 percent did not believe the police would be able to help
  • 30 percent did not give a reason or gave reasons not previously listed

So again, it’s easy to see why these women do not come forward. To further that, take a look at just some of the comments at or about Ms. Bissen from Thursday:

…and these are just the ones that are quasi-fit to print. In other words, it essentially led me to tweet this:

Now before we go too far down this road, it’s worth looking into what the statutes of limitation are on these sorts of things. This probably falls under something like assault and battery or false imprisonment, both of which hold two-year statutes of limitation in the state of Minnesota. And since this was 27 months ago, there wouldn’t be much that can be done in a criminal court.

And again, as Bissen reiterated, she doesn’t really seem all that interested in pursuing it any further, but rather releasing herself from the burden of carrying it all this time.

That’s where punishment could be murky. With no potential of charges, it’s worth wondering how far this can really be pursued past a “he said, she said” disagreement, and if the Twins really can do much without the player’s union getting involved. Charges were never brought against Aroldis Chapman when he was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots in a garage — though that came down to much different circumstances.

Chapman was a first-time offender, and MLB suspended him 30 games. However, this was a situation where charges could have been brought against Chapman, but weren’t because of what Deadspin called “a mix of people changing their stories, a statement that might not be usable in court and Florida’s gun laws.”

I’m not a lawyer, but that doesn’t really feel like a strong precedent or standard to apply this case to.

This offseason is going to continue to be interesting, but for all the wrong reasons.

The other angle naysayers tend to pursue is the financial aspect. That is, that these women are just out to get rich off the deal. Local practicing attorney Bill Parker, a well-known baseball writer on Twitter and co-host of the “This Week in Baseball History” podcast, more or less calls that suggestion hogwash.

“Well, if one were to assume that she’s making it all up — as you’d have to, because if it’s all true we don’t really care if she’s doing it for financial reasons or not, right? — the worst thing she could do would be to come forward and make the full story public,” Parker said.

“This imaginary scheme would all depend on having a credible (but false) story that, if made public, would tarnish his name and cause him tremendous embarrassment,” Parker continued. “One of the most valuable assets this hypothetical fraud would have in that situation is the threat of going public with this credible, damaging story. So if anyone with any sense at all who wanted to sell a made-up story implicating a celebrity for money would go to the celebrity with the threat of it first.”

In short, Parker says that the money-grab theory doesn’t hold water, because if that were the case, strategically she’d have gone to Sano with the threat of going public unless he settled the matter with her beforehand.

“If we assume, as so many of these [Twitter fools] apparently did, that Betsy is a fraud who is after money, then she’s gone and thrown away probably her most valuable asset by telling the story publicly,” Parker said. “So assuming she’s too smart to do something like that — which I think the quality of the writing alone confirms that she is — the much more reasonable assumption is that she’s not after money,” Parker concluded, adding that he’d then be inclined to believe her.

Many people also threw around legal terms like “due process” and “hearsay” in their defense — indirect or otherwise — of Sano, which Parker says isn’t the correct legal definition of either, really.

“Well, the idea that believing her is some sort of affront to “due process” is nonsense,” he said. “Give him due process in a court of law, but it’s not any part of the issue here. She’s told a plausible story that, so far, he’s had no response for other than a blanket denial that obviously came from a lawyer in crisis mode. You can believe her without taking away any of his rights.

“Similarly, you hear a lot that it’s ‘hearsay’ or that there’s no ‘evidence.’ Her account itself is evidence, and is most definitely not hearsay. Betsy is a witness to the event in question, and her story is powerful evidence — usually, in these cases, the only evidence apart from the accuser’s counter-testimony — that the thing itself happened. People like to use these terms because (a) they think it makes them sound smarter and (b) they can act like impartial observers who are just waiting for all the facts to come in. In reality, though, they’re giving the accused an extra advantage to which he’s really not entitled, and they’re making a choice not to believe the accuser, for whatever dubious reason.”

Overall, what this appears to be is a messy situation that will not go away quickly or without controversy. This offseason is going to continue to be interesting, but for all the wrong reasons.


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9 COMMENTS

  1. It seems pretty likely that a young athlete in the limelight gets an inflated idea of his appeal, and, based on a lot of reported thuggish behavior by famous athletes toward women, pushed along to see if he could “score” off the field. The problem is that there is a bit of a “freshness” issue now to the charges, so this is more of a shaming matter than a legal issue.

    The Twins ought to talk to Sano and find out if he is defiant or humble, and put him on a sort of probation watch to see how he deals with women from here on out. And this is also a good opportunity to talk to the whole team about the subject.

    • Related to the “inflated idea of his appeal,” Sano was first signed when he was 16 years old. He did a lot of growing up that was spent mostly hanging out with his male peers (i.e. teammates) and thus it wouldn’t shock me if he never really learned an appropriate way to approach women. That’s unfortunate, and if he is found guilty, I hope the Twins use this as an opportunity to give him counseling. Additionally, regardless of the verdict, I hope that the organization starts counseling for the players as early as the low minors in an effort to prevent something like this from happening again, if they haven’t been doing so already.

  2. Great article by Brandon. The only thing thing missing is where the minor league coaches and bench coach were if a player is treating stadium staff inappropriately, and why would the stadium staff think that rotating ushers would solve the problem. Bad behaviors need to be nipped in the bud before they escalate. Having said that, let’s not put all the blame on the minor leagues, and let justice run its course.

  3. Sorry, but I don’t buy the conclusions of your main points against those that would question the legitimacy of the story.

    For example, your retort that Betsy couldn’t be a “fraud who is after money” because she’s thrown away her most valuable asset by telling it publicly, you assume that her sole option to make money is outright blackmail (or, for the pedantic among us, extortion — lest my arguments be dismissed solely because I used the wrong legalese). But that is a spurious assumption; in fact, only an idiot would think they could get away with such brazen extortion.

    If you don’t make that erroneous assumption, you see that there are possible scenarios where one could make money by telling outrageous and false stories about celebrities. One only need look at the tabloid section in one’s local grocery for an example.

    I think the account kind of smells and doesn’t make sense. How could this have happened over the span of 10-30 minutes without someone doing something? Where was everyone else when she screamed? These aspects of the story sound exaggerated, if I’m understanding them correctly. That would make me question her honesty.

    All in all, I think this article is a hatchet job that pretends to be impartial but really just sets up a strawman to represent anyone that would question the legitimacy of the account. How about you show a reasonable tweet to represent a belief opposite to your own? But the only reasonable tweet you show IS your own.

    • Lots of assumptions there, Daniel. But the preponderance of evidence we have seen thus far is not favorable to Sano. There is enough reasonable doubt (plus statute of limitations) to render a legal case moot, but paying very close attention to behavior from here on out is definitely in order. Brandon has it about right- don’t dump the athlete at this point, but closely watch his future conduct.

    • Hi Daniel,

      This is extremely silly. Consider someone who *does* have a valid claim, but doesn’t find it particularly necessary to tell her story, and just wants compensation for it; the obvious first move would be to write a letter to the offender or his attorney in the hopes that he’ll be motivated to settle for a relatively high amount to keep the incident from going public. That’s not “extortion,” in that instance; it’s just smart business. If you’re hoping to get money out of Sano, whether the story is true or not, the very last thing you should do is go public with the story first.

      I would be really interested in any actual examples you have “where one could make money by telling outrageous and false stories about celebrities.” The general reference to the tabloid section really doesn’t do it for me.

      But yeah, as Brandon suggested, no one who is questioning the legitimacy of the account is reasonable; they’re looking for reasons to disbelieve a story they have no reason to disbelieve, because they’d rather it not be true. (Case in point: where do you get “10-30 minutes” from?)

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