Category Archives: Domestic Abuse

Adrian Peterson Child Abuse

Adrian Peterson Reinstated After Child Abuse Charges

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is expected to be back on the field Sunday when Minnesota takes on New Orleans after being reinstated by the team. Peterson was held out of this week’s game after he was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.

The decision to reinstate Peterson is making waves among the talking heads at ESPN and other sports media outlets, and the Vikings owners made it clear that they understand the severity of the charges but they also want to let due process run its course.

“Today’s decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue,” owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said in a statement. “To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action.”

Child Abuse Charges

The public first learned of the child abuse charges Friday afternoon, and the Vikings quickly made the decision to deactivate Peterson for the Sunday’s home opener. According to a statement from his attorney Rusty Hardin, the charges stem from an incident where Peterson used “a switch to spank his son.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a switch is basically a small twig or tree branch.

“Parents are entitled to discipline their children as they see fit, except when that discipline exceeds what the community would say is reasonable,” Hardin said about the incident. According to the grand jury, Peterson’s actions exceeded a reasonable standard.

Peterson will make his first appearance on Wednesday, where he is expected to enter a plea. Peterson will appear in court over the next several weeks, but many involved in the case believe it will be a few months before the case goes to trial.

Child Abuse Penalties

Peterson was officially charged with one count of injury to a child and could be sentenced to up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. He could also be placed on probation and be forced to attend counseling.

In addition to penalties levied by the state of Texas, Peterson could face additional discipline from the NFL. The league recently announced a new domestic violence policy that includes any physical harm, so it’s certainly possible that Peterson would be subject to penalties. Under the new policy, a first time offender would receive a six game suspension and a second violation would result in a lifetime ban.

Related source: ESPN

Ray Rice Elevator

Ray Rice Cut By Ravens, Suspended by NFL For Domestic Violence

The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens took action against Ray Rice after new video evidence emerged showing the runningback punching his now-wife in a casino elevator.

The video, which can be seen below, shows Rice and his fiancé Janay Parker embroiled in an argument in a casino elevator. Parker moves towards Rice, and he throws a hard punch with his left hand. Parker strikes her head on the handrail as she falls, and she remains unconscious for a few minutes.

 

 

Rice was originally charged with felony assault, but Parker refused to testify and the charges were later dropped on the condition Rice seek court-supervised counseling. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games for the incident, which led to stark criticism from public. Feeling that he made a mistake in only suspending Rice for two games, Goodell created new suspension guidelines for anyone found guilty of domestic or physical assault. Still, the general public felt that both the NFL and the Ravens, who didn’t administer any further punishment, had dropped the ball in regards to Rice’s situation.

That is until yesterday, when “new” video surfaced that showed the punch in its entirety. Sensing that they could salvage their public image, the Ravens released Rice and Goodell suspended him “indefinitely.”

“It changed the course of things,” Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh said of the video.

Cut the Crap

While some will argue that in the end, the team and the league made the right move to cut and suspend Rice, as attorneys, we don’t just look at the end result; we examine the whole process.

The biggest issue I have is that it’s impossible for me to believe that the NFL and the Ravens did not know this video existed prior to yesterday. For starters, the incident happened in a casino elevator. Everyone knows that there are cameras everywhere in a casino. Why would the elevator be any different? At the absolute least, the NFL should have inquired about the existence of a video recording inside the elevator. The casino surely knew they had video, so why did it take six months for the video to surface?

TMZ was the first to release the video to the public, and they took a strong stance against the NFL’s claims that they had no idea the video existed. TMZ’s Harvey Levin said the NFL knew of the video, and he claims to have proof of their knowledge.

“Prosecutors had this, police had it, I know people had this video, too,” Levin said. “The NFL, it almost feels like they didn’t want to know.”

It will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds if TMZ can back up their claims. At this point though, I must agree with Keith Olbermann, who blasted those who turned a blind eye to this domestic violence, including the league, the NFL, and the county prosecutors.

 

 

Related source: NY Times

Roger Goodell

NFL Implements New Domestic Violence Protocol

The National Football League has decided to implement stronger penalties for domestic violence offenders in the wake of public outcry over the two-game suspension handed down to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

In a memo to all 32 teams, commissioner Roger Goodell stated that he “didn’t get it right” in reference to the decision to suspend Ray Rice for a mere two games. Anyone who saw the video of Rice dragging his wife’s unconscious body out of the casino elevator probably feels the same way.

“At times…despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals,” Goodell wrote in the memo. “We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. … My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values.”

New Policy

The new personal conduct policy on domestic violence reads as follows:

  • The policy applies to all incidents of physical force, not just domestic violence.
  • A player would be subject to a six-game suspension for a first offense, and that suspension could be longer according to the circumstances.
  • A player would receive a lifetime ban for a second incident, although they could apply for reinstatement after one year.
  • The policy applies to all NFL personnel, not just players.
  • The policy is not retroactive. Everyone comes in with a clean slate.
  • Counseling is available for all parties, and the NFL will seek out “at-risk” individuals to offer pre-incident counseling. The player can refuse, but his refusal could affect future discipline.

The league also made it clear that the policy only applies after a court decision, not simply by arrest. Should a player be found guilty or enter a plea agreement, the NFL would make a decision as to whether or not the person violated the new policy.

Roger Goodell also noted that although individuals will enter the NFL with a proverbial “clean slate,” if they had a previous incident in high school or college, they could be subjected to harsher first-offense penalties should they have another incident. He said he wants this to be a top-down change in behavior.

“We will expand the educational components in our college, high school and youth football programs that address domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell concluded.

Related source: ESPN

Kluwe and Cunningham

Two Former Minnesota Athletes Earn Lawsuit Victories

Two former Minnesota athletes – one a Viking, the other a Timberwolf – got some good news regarding their lawsuits on Monday. One saw assault charges dismissed, while the other won a generous ruling. We’ll explain both cases below.

Cunningham Gets Assault Charges Dropped

Former Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham had been charged with felony domestic assault, but Hennepin County prosecutors dropped the charges on Monday, noting there was “not proof beyond a reasonable doubt for the charged offense.”

Cunningham had been accused of choking his girlfriend in their Medina home back in April. Police took statements from the involved parties and felt their was enough evidence to book Cunningham on felony domestic assault charges, but a later investigation revealed holes in the prosecution’s case.

Cunningham’s attorney said the free agent forward was “very grateful” when he was informed of the news over the phone on Monday.

“He’s has this cloud hanging over his head,” said his attorney Emanuel Serstock. “He’s going to get back to his agent and start working with his future.”

Cunningham played his last two seasons in Minnesota, but he became a free agent this offseason and has yet to find a new team.

Kluwe Settles Case

The Minnesota Vikings and former punter Chris Kluwe came to an agreement on Monday that ended a seven-month ordeal surrounding homophobic remarks and claims of wrongful termination.

Kluwe, an outspoken advocate for same-sex rights, penned an article on Deadspin.com back in January claiming that he was released from the team because of his outspoken views on the matter. He also accused special teams coach Mike Priefer of making homophobic remarks during the season prior to his release.

Investigators looked into the matter and produced a 150-page report, but the Vikings only shared a 29-page summary of the report. Kluwe demanded they release the whole findings or he would sue. Prior to filing a lawsuit, the two sides met and reached an agreement that resolves the matter in lieu of going to court. According to reports:

  • The Vikings will make undisclosed donations to five LGBT groups over the next five years.
  • The 150-page investigation will not be released.
  • Kluwe will not receive any monetary compensation.
  • Priefer was suspended for three games, but this occurred prior to the two sides striking a compromise.

“I hope we can all move on to our lives now and enjoy playing football,” Kluwe told reporters after reaching the deal. “The agreement is fine.”

Related source: Pioneer Press

Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects DWI Necessity Defense

A while back, we wrote about the case of Jennifer Axelberg, the Minnesota woman who was arrested for driving under the influence while attempting to flee from her abusive husband. Axelberg later pleaded guilty to a lessor charge of careless driving , but she appealed the loss of her driver’s license under the Necessity Defense. In order to prove the Necessity Defense, a defendant must prove three things:

  • The defendant acted in such a manner to avoid a significant risk of harm; and
  • No reasonable lawful means could have been used to escape the harm; and
  • The harm avoided was greater than that caused by breaking the law.

Unfortunately for Axelberg, the appellate court rejected her appeal in a 2-1 decision. In the majority opinion, the judge wrote that Axelberg created a substantial risk to the general public by choosing to drive drunk.

Taking it to the Minnesota Supreme Court

Jennifer didn’t stop there, though. Knowing that the appellate court was divided on their ruling, Axelberg decided to appeal her case to the Minnesota Supreme Court, saying that she was “fighting for others who might get into this situation.” But for Axelberg, it was deja vu all over again, as a sharply divided group of justices ruled against her appeal in a 4-3 decision.

Justices on both sides issued strong opinions and spoke about the harmful precedence that would be set by the opposing opinion. Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea wrote in her 14-page majority opinion that Minnesota’s Implied Consent law doesn’t allow a person to use the Necessity Defense as an argument when it comes to challenging a license revocation.

Justice Alan Page, who disagreed with the majority opinion, said that the ruling is a slap in the face to individuals who have no other options when faced with physical or sexual assault.

“The decision implies that the necessity defense is unavailable not only in cases of domestic abuse, but also in cases in which a victim’s seeking refuge from a violent physical or sexual assault or kidnapping, and the court’s decision thus discourages those individuals from seeking shelter in a motor vehicle as well,” Page wrote.

Attorney Avery Appelman agreed with Justice Page.

“I think the majority opinion actually empathized with Jennifer, but they feared that applying the Necessity Defense would open up a theoretical ‘out’ for drunk drivers to claim they were fleeing an abuser,” said Appelman. “In actuality, Jennifer’s situation was so unique and the evidence against her abuser was so strong that very few future cases would meet the same circumstances. Jennifer should have had her license reinstated.”

Related source: Star-Tribune

Ray Rice Summoned To Court On Assault Charges

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been summoned to appear before a judge after he was charged with assault during an incident at an Atlantic City casino.

According to the police report, Rice and his fiancée Janay Palmer got in a physical argument at the Revel Casino. Rice’s attorneys claim a “very minor physical altercation” occurred, but video obtained by TMZ shows that the situation was anything but minor.

You can see the TMZ video below. Some of the images may be disturbing.

 

 

The video shows Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the casino elevator and laying her on the ground. He later tries to prop her up, at which point it appears she regains consciousness. The court summons alleges that Rice struck his fiancée with his hand, which rendered her unconscious.

Rice’s attorneys have admitted that the video is authentic, but they say it is taken out of context.

“The video that has been put up by TMZ shows the very end of what transpired between Ray and his fiancée,” said Rice’s attorney Michael Diamondstein.

Both Rice and Parker were arrested for simple assault for their role in the incident, so it appears police believe that both parties got physical at some point during the night. Although Parker’s role in the altercation is still being investigated, her attorneys have referred the domestic violence incident to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for further review.

Ray Rice

Rice will make his initial appearance on March 11.

Further Punishment?

As prosecutors noted, the case has already been referred to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for review, but Rice could also face additional penalties by the National Football League.

Players in the NFL are required to adhere to the league’s personal conduct policy, which was initially instituted to control off-field behavior and preserve the league’s public image. Six notable players have received game suspensions as a result of off field conduct, and as the list shows, a player doesn’t necessarily need to be charged with a crime to feel the wrath of Roger Goodell.

  • Adam “Pacman” Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season, and eventually served another 6-game suspension for repeated arrests and his involvement in a shooting at a strip club in Las Vegas.
  • Chris Henry was suspended for the first eight games in 2007 after he was arrested for the fifth time in three different states.
  • Tank Johnson was suspended for the first eight games in 2007 after he pled guilty to an illegal weapons charge.
  • Donte Stallworth was suspended for the entire 2009 season after he killed a pedestrian while driving drunk. He accepted a plea agreement in lieu of taking the case to trial.
  • Michael Vick was suspended for two regular season games in 2009 after serving a 21-month sentence in prison for his role in an illegal dog-fighting ring.
  • Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for four games in 2010 after allegations of sexual assault arose for the second time in less than a year. Roethlisberger was never charged with a crime, but he still received a suspension.

The league will likely wait to see how the case plays out, but if the judge rules that Rice knocked his fiancée unconscious, don’t expect the commissioner to take the case lightly. Even if he avoids jail time, he may be forced to watch some Ravens games from the sideline.

Related source: TMZ, Forward Times Online

Minnesota Domestic Violence Deaths Increase in 2013

Domestic Violence StatsComing off a year where domestic violence deaths fell to a 20–year low, Minnesota saw a disturbing increase in the number of domestic violence-related deaths in 2013.

The 2012 Femicide Report showed that the state was moving in the right direction in preventing domestic assault deaths, as the 19 reported incidents marked a 20-year low. Unfortunately, the number of deaths from domestic violence nearly doubled in 2013, as there were 37 reported cases.

This year’s Femicide Report said the state can’t let those who died be forgotten.

“Our challenge to the community is not to let these deaths go unnoticed but rather to use these brutal murders as a springboard for action,” the report said.

Disturbing Trends

The 2013 Femicide Report documented numerous domestic assault statistics. Some of the findings can be found below:

  • 24 women and seven men were killed by current or former partners. Six friends or family members were also killed as a result of domestic violence.
  • 15 of the 24 women were killed after the women left or as they were trying to leave a relationship. The report said the most dangerous time for battered women is when they try to end the relationship.
  • The perpetrator committed suicide after killing the victim in about 50 percent of cases, much higher than the national murder-suicide average.
  • 17 of the 37 murders were committed with firearms.

The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, the group who creates the annual Femicide Report, said the last point was one area where they’d like to see the government intervene.

“When there is a history of domestic violence, we should be looking at the question of access to firearms,” the report said.

Minnesota lawmakers will soon vote on two new pieces of legislation aimed at keeping domestic violence victims safe. The first proposed law would give victims the right to be notified of an offender’s location after they are released from prison, and the second bill would increase the ability of police to arrest suspected abusers after they have fled the scene of an alleged crime.

Rebeckah Moses, program manager for the WCBW, said the proposed legistlation is a step in the right direction, but more changes are needed.

“Safety must be a priority and recognized as a core issue at the Legislature and beyond,” said Moses. “We are all impacted: in our workplaces, schools, homes, courts and community.”

Related source: PostBulletin.com

Officials Aim To Crack Down on Sex Trafficking at Super Bowl

Sex Trafficking Super BowlThe up’s and down’s of a football game can cause people to act irrationally. We’ve already heard stories of how domestic violence increases after a loss, and we’ve seen some people get a little carried away when rooting for their favorite team. While law enforcement officials are trained to deal with some of the more common occurrences during a football game, police in New Jersey are attempting to tackle a different problem that often follows mega sporting events: sex trafficking. 

With more than a hundred thousand people expected to make their way to New Jersey for the Super Bowl on February 2, it’s not hard to believe that those looking to make an illegal buck are trying to benefit from the excessive, not-from-around-here crowd. According to U.S. Representative Chris Smith, officials will try to crack down on the sex-trafficking problem which has followed the nation’s biggest event for the last few years.

“New Jersey has a huge trafficking problem,” said Smith. “One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks.”

To combat the sex-trafficking trade, and to cut down on illegal prostitution on its streets, New Jersey has taken steps to prevent the practice. Over the last few years, the state has passed numerous laws aimed at combating what they call “forced prostitution.” As an influx of men are set to descend on the state in less than a month, sex trafficking prevention advocate Danielle Douglas said the state needs to continue their efforts to stop this terrible trend.

“The Super Bowl is a huge, huge arena for sex trafficking,” Douglas said. Some visitors “are coming to the Super Bowl not even to watch football — they are coming to the Super Bowl to have sex with women, and/or men or children.”

Sex Trafficking or Prostitution?

Prostitution and sex trafficking may seem like the same crime, but it’s the addition of a third party that makes sex trafficking a more heinous act. Some individuals who participate in prostitution do so voluntarily because it’s a quick way to make money, while sex trafficking victims are forced into the practice by a trafficker or pimp. Making matters worse, sex trafficking victims are often minors.

Minnesota re-worked its sex trafficking laws in 2005 to cast a wider net to catch traffickers. According to the law, if a person participates in either of the below points, he or she could be found guilty of sex trafficking.

  • Receiving, recruiting, enticing, harboring, providing, or obtaining by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of an individual; or
  • Receiving profit or anything of value and knowing or having reason to know it is derived from sex trafficking.

Minnesota sex trafficking crimes are punishable by a maximum of 15 years for an adult victim, 20 years and/or up to a $50,000 fine if the victim is under 18 years of age, and 25 years and up to a $60,000 fine if aggravating factors are present.

Although the penalties for sex trafficking are extreme, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said traffickers are still willing to take the risk to cash in on magnitude of the event.

“When you’re about ready to have 400,000 men come to this area of the country,” Molinelli said, “you’re invariably going to have more people try to take advantage of that by providing prostitutes and prostitution.”

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said his men aren’t taking the issue lightly, and he’s asking for anyone who sees anything suspicious to report their concerns to the police.

“We’ve enlisted, basically, every service provider that people coming to the Super Bowl are going to run into,” Hoffman said. “There are a lot of eyes that are going to be on their activities and going to be on spotting potential victims of this crime.”

Related source: Pioneer Press

Minnesota Supreme Court to Rule in Abusive DWI Case

Supreme CourtBack in August, we shared the story of Jennifer Marie Axelberg, the 39-year-old woman who was convicted of a DWI as a result of an incident near her family cabin in Mora, Minnesota. What made Jennifer’s case unique was that she claimed she only got behind the wheel on the night in question because she feared for her life. You can read to full story here, but he’s a summation of what happened that night.

On May 30, 2011, Jennifer and her husband Jason drove to their family cabin in Mora. After drinking at a nearby resort, the couple returned to their cabin. An argument ensued, and Jennifer claimed her husband pushed her, hit her, and took her cell phone.

Fearing for her safety, Jennifer left the cabin and got into her car. Her husband came outside shortly afterwards and punched the car’s windshield, causing it to crack. Not knowing what would happen if her husband got inside the car, Jennifer started the engine and drove back to the resort with her husband in pursuit on foot. A witness called police, and although Jason was booked on charges of domestic assault and disorderly conduct, Jennifer was arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired.

Jennifer was later convicted of a DWI after chemical tests showed that he had a blood-alcohol content of .18. Like anyone in her position, she appealed the conviction on the grounds of the necessity defense, but an appellate court ruled 2-1 against her. In their majority opinion, the judges stated that Jennifer created an additional risk of injury to the general public by driving while impaired.

Judge Margaret H. Chutich issued a dissenting opinion in the appellate case, saying that the “defense is available in cases where extraordinary circumstances exist.” Citing that Jason had already pleaded guilty to his charges, Chutich said it was clear that a physical altercation had taken place, and she would have reversed the conviction.

Supreme Ruling

The Minnesota Supreme Court has the power to overturn the DWI conviction when they hear the case on Thursday, but some believe reversing the decision will open the door for other DWI offenders to claim they were fleeing from an abusive situation. This could put innocent spouses or drivers at a greater risk of false accusations or injury.

Jennifer has clearly provided enough evidence to prove that her husband had physically assaulted her on the night in question, but there are many other factors that weigh into the decision. For example, Jennifer claimed she only drove because she was rather unfamiliar with the area and sought the safety of the resort. On the other side of the coin, prosecutors can argue that her decision to consume alcohol contributed, at least partially, to the escalating ordeal. Had she stayed under the legal limit, there wouldn’t have been any problem.

We hope Jennifer gets the justice she deserves. Abusive relationships are terrible, and nobody knows how they would react in a similar situation. Thankfully nobody was hurt by Jennifer’s decision to drive, but the outcome could have been a lot worse if she had stayed at the cabin that night. We’ll update the story once the Minnesota Supreme Court issues its ruling.

Vikings Cut Jefferson After Domestic Assault Arrest

AJ JeffersonThe Minnesota Vikings severed ties with cornerback A.J. Jefferson hours after the four-year pro was arrested on charges of domestic assault.

Jefferson was booked at the Hennepin County jail around 7 a.m. on Monday following an early morning incident at his home in Eden Prairie. According to the criminal complaint, a 23-year-old female called authorities around 4:30 a.m. to report that she had been the victim of a domestic assault. The victim, who said she was in a relationship with Jefferson, said he put his hands around her neck and choked her during an argument. No other details about the incident were reported. Police took Jefferson into custody at his residence without incident.

Jefferson Released

The Vikings, who have had no shortage of player-related incidents with the law in recent months, acted swiftly upon hearing about Jefferson’s arrest. Even though they are working with a depleted secondary, the Vikings decided to cut Jefferson less than five hours after his arrest.

Head coach Leslie Frazier wouldn’t comment on Jefferson’s release when he spoke to the media on Monday. Frazier is likely fed up with the off-field actions of some of his players, as Jefferson was the second Vikings player to be arrested in November. Earlier this month, wide receiver Jerome Simpson was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. The wide receiver remains on the team, but his future status is in doubt. The soon-to-be free agent faces jail time as his most recent arrest violates conditions set forth in a previous probation agreement.

Jefferson is the fifth Vikings player to be arrested in the last three years.

Possible Charges

Looking at the law, Jefferson could face charges of assault charge ranging from third degree to fifth degree. A domestic assault charge in the fifth degree is considered the least severe form of assault in Minnesota, and it is usually considered a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense. A fifth degree assault charge is considered when a person:

  • Commits an act with intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • Purposely inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another person.

A person found guilty of assault in the fifth degree can face up to 90 days in jail, fines up to $1,000, or both.

If he were to be found guilty of Third Degree Assault, which can occur when choking or strangulation occurs, Jefferson could face up to five years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both. We’ll provide an update if and when formal charges are announced.

Related source: TMZ, Pioneer Press