WALTHAM — The Boston Celtics’ Jared Sullinger stood stone-faced and wearing handcuffs in the dock of Waltham District Court on Tuesday as prosecutors said the 6-foot-9-inch, 260-pound power forward pinned his girlfriend to a bed and to the floor of their townhouse last weekend and then snatched and smashed her cellphone when she tried to call police.
“During this heated argument in the bedroom, Jared pushed her down onto the bed and got on top of her,” Waltham police wrote in their report of the confrontation. Sullinger’s girlfriend said “she tried several times to get up, but he kept pinning her down and would not let her up.’’
The 21-year-old, who joined the Celtics last season, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery, intimidation of a witness, and destruction of personal property. He was released on $5,000 cash bail and ordered to contact his girlfriend only by telephone or with a third person present. Sullinger’s girlfriend had accused him of infidelity before their fight Saturday.
In a statement released by the Celtics after he left the courthouse, Sullinger described his arrest as “humbling and embarrassing.”
“I know that this situation has brought both sorrow and embarrassment to my girlfriend, my family, the Boston Celtics organization, my teammates, and my fans,” he said. “To all of you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”
He added: “My lawyers have advised me not to discuss the case at this time. But I wanted to immediately and publicly apologize to everyone affected by this situation.”
His girlfriend, Deann Smith, who allegedly had red marks on her chest after the fight, did not seek a restraining order against Sullinger, even though prosecutors said he had previously pushed Smith and threatened her.
Smith, who spoke to the judge in a sidebar during the arraignment, declined to comment afterward.
Sullinger’s defense lawyer, Charles Rankin, said in court that Sullinger and Smith were “longtime sweethearts’’ who met while attending Ohio State University, where Sullinger was a renowned basketball player. Rankin told Judge Gregory C. Flynn that Smith waited 10 hours before calling Waltham police for help Saturday.
He also said Sullinger flew home to Columbus, Ohio, for a previously planned visit with his parents shortly after the alleged fight.
Once he learned from Waltham police that they had a warrant for his arrest, Rankin said, Sullinger voluntarily returned to Waltham, where he went to the police station with his lawyer early Monday and surrendered.
During the arraignment, Rankin urged the judge to not draw a connection between Sullinger’s case and that of Jared Remy, accused of killing his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, last month. The day before the slaying, Remy was released on personal recognizance from the same courthouse after an allegation of domestic violence.
An official in the Middlesex district attorney’s office said prosecutors sought to have bail imposed in Sullinger’s case for several reasons, including the visible injuries, the history of escalating tension reported by Smith, Sullinger’s initial refusal to provide a return date, and his demonstrated ability to travel.
Waltham Detective Sergeant Joseph Guigno said he was not aware of prior criminal complaints against Sullinger.
Neither officials at Ohio State University nor Columbus Police Department returned calls.
A longtime neighbor of his family in Columbus said she was shocked to hear the charges against Sullinger.
“I’ve known him as a good person, as a great kid growing up,” Tracy Brihm said in a phone interview. “I’ve never seen him in any trouble.”
In a statement, the Celtics said they were “disappointed to learn of the allegations against Jared and are currently gathering more information on the situation, which we are taking very seriously.”
In a report filed in court, Waltham police said they were called to the couple’s townhouse about 8 p.m. Saturday. Smith told them she confronted Sullinger after allegedly finding evidence on his cellphone that he was cheating on her. The two argued and the confrontation intensified when Smith started packing her belongings, according to the report.
Smith told police Sullinger threw her off the bed and onto the floor. “He then got on top of her again and would not let her up,’’ police wrote.
Smith said she grabbed her phone and told Sullinger she was calling police. He allegedly grabbed it out of her hand and then, after pushing her to the ground again, went to the garage and drove away.
She told police she knew Sullinger was scheduled to fly to Ohio. She said she waited until 8 p.m. to call police because it was only by then that she was certain he was out of the state.
Smith’s phone was “shattered on both sides” but still operable, police said.
In court, Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Sarah Ellis said Smith told investigators that in the past Sullinger had pushed her and that she felt threatened by him, but that she never called for help from law enforcement until Saturday.
Ellis asked that Sullinger, due back in court Sept. 19, undergo a mental health evaluation, a request Flynn refused, saying it was too soon in the criminal justice process to require Sullinger to undergo such an examination. Prosecutors said they believed such an evaluation was necessary given the circumstances of the case and Sullinger’s history with Smith.
Domestic violence is a persistent problem in Massachusetts. This year, 10 people have died as a result of domestic violence, among 266 deaths over the past decade.
Annie Lewis O’Connor, a specialist in domestic violence treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said she was “deeply saddened” about the allegations against Sullinger.
“While we grieve for the latest victims of domestic violence, we must also remember that these senseless and tragic deaths are preventable,” she said.
David Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.