VAN NUYS, Calif. -- A city prosecutor said today that former Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley began abusing his wife almost immediately upon marrying her and once threatened to beat her with a baseball bat, but the defense claimed she is exaggerating in order to get out of a prenuptial agreement.
Bradley, 35, of Encino is charged with 15 misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon, spousal battery, brandishing a weapon, criminal threats, vandalism and attempted witness intimidation.
The retired athlete denies threatening and attacking then-wife Monique -- with whom he has two sons -- multiple times in 2011 and 2012. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 13 years in county jail.
Almost as soon as the couple married in 2005, "the violence started," Deputy City Attorney Michelle Lim alleged.
"It was all about power and control with him," she said, telling jurors in her opening statement that, in one instance, Bradley threatened his estranged wife with a knife and warned her, "You'll be dead ... before you divorce me."
Defense attorney Harland Braun countered that while such allegations may appear convincing, it should be remembered that Monique Bradley is "involved in a long-term divorce action, fighting over custody, fighting over money."
Braun suggested that if she can convince a judge to overturn a prenuptial agreement with his client, she could receive as much as $3 million.
"There is a whole other side to this case," Braun said. "I will concede that my client has a temper .... but he never, ever struck the mother of his children."
Bradley, who most recently played for the Seattle Mariners in 2010 and 2011, has a well-documented history of run-ins with umpires, managers, teammates and fans, including incidents during his two-year spell with the Dodgers in 2004 and 2005.
Lim alleged in her opening statement that incidents of domestic abuse in 2011 and 2012 in the home were "getting closer and closer together."
Just weeks after slapping Monique Bradley during an argument, the ex-baseball player rushed at her, pushed her against a wall and choked her after she asked him not to smoke marijuana with his friends in front of their children, Lim alleged.
In another alleged incident that led to a vandalism charge, Bradley threw a cellphone at a wall-mounted television, cracking the screen. Bradley then kicked his wife in the ribs while she was "down on her hands and knees," picking up the broken glass, Lim alleged.
Braun told jurors that his client was often "manipulated" by his estranged wife, who sometimes "disappeared" with the children, leaving the athlete furious.
"The key to Milton is his ability to see his children," Braun said, adding that his client "has serious problems from his childhood."
Braun added that although there were disagreements, the couple spent most of their time together, despite a restraining order the wife had taken out, and even traveled together frequently.
"This is all going on during the time when the prosecution will tell you she was so afraid of her husband," Braun said. "You have to look at the totality of the circumstances."
The trial is expected to last about two weeks. Monique Bradley was expected to be the first witness.