Miami Dolphins safety Jonathon Amaya charged with battery
Nov 26, 2012 (Sun Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Miami Dolphins reserve safety Jonathon Amaya is facing a battery charge after he was accused of choking a taxi driver.
Amaya, 24, was arrested and charged with battery after a pre-dawn dispute Monday with a cab driver about a 40-mile trip from Bamboo nightclub on Miami Beach to Weston, in Broward County.
He was booked into a Miami-Dade County jail shortly before 8 a.m. Monday and was later released on a $1,500 bond, according to a Corrections Department spokeswoman.
Reached on his cellphone Monday afternoon, Amaya said the device was losing power and that he could not immediately comment.
The cab driver told officers the professional athlete put his hands around his neck and started choking him, according to a Miami Beach Police incident report.
Salvador Vunge, 44, said by phone Monday that he picked up Amaya in his Super Yellow Cab around 4 a.m. and that the athlete gave him $100 cash toward the bill.
"I told him I could not take him there because it was a long distance," Vunge said.
The cabbie said he feared he would not be paid when they arrived at his passenger's destination, something he said has happened in the past.
"He insisted and I decided to give him a ride," Vunge said. "We were on the MacArthur Causeway and he was on the phone, and I didn't like his attitude. It felt not safe for me."
Vunge said he turned the cab around at Fisher Island and took Amaya back to the club, where two Biscayne Park police officers were parked outside Bamboo while working an off-duty detail.
"I was pressing the horn for assistance but they didn't notice me," said Vunge, who police described in their report as driving erratically toward them while screaming, "This man is trying to kill me."
The incident report says Vunge had no injuries, and on Monday, the cabbie said he felt pain internally and that his ear was bleeding when he got home.
He said he didn't know Amaya was a Miami Dolphin.
"I'm more of a basketball fan," Vunge said. "But this has nothing to do with whether I'm a fan of football or basketball. I had to do it for my safety."
Amaya's birthday was Sunday.
Amaya's a core special teamer who is in his second stint with the team. He signed with the Dolphins as a free agent in 2010 out of the University of Nevada-Reno.
The Dolphins traded Amaya to the New Orleans Saints in 2011 in the deal that brought tailback Reggie Bush to Miami. He was released by the Saints and re-signed with Miami in September.
He has appeared in eight games this season for the Dolphins, mainly on special teams, and has four solo tackles.
Dolphins' spokesman Harvey Greene said by email, "We are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering information."
Staff Writers Omar Kelly and Joseph Schwerdt contributed to this report. Ltrischitta@Tribune.com, 954-356-4233 or Twitter @LindaTrischitta.
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