In Perspective: The Adrian Peterson Case

Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is making all the news headlines this year, but they’re not highlighting his achievements on the football field. Instead, the star running back is facing media scrutiny after being indicted in September of reckless or negligent injury to a child.

The 2012 NFL MVP has admitted to disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch, otherwise known as a tree branch. In his defense, Peterson insists the discipline was the same he faced growing up as a child in rural Texas.

“I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate,” Peterson commented via an official statement from the Vikings organization.

The news story, meanwhile, reached a new level of media scrutiny when celebrity news website TMZ released a photo showing the extent of the child’s wounds – slash-like injuries on the 4-year-old’s body.

Despite his admittance to inflicting the wounds, Peterson has pleaded not guilty to the charges, submitting his plea in an appearance at a Texas courthouse in October. The case could take place as early as December as Adrian Peterson remains on the NFL commissioner’s exempt list, likely meaning he’s out for the rest of the 2014 NFL season.

Peterson’s Defense Strategy

By pleading his innocence, Mr. Peterson and his defense attorney may bet on a strategy that centers on some vagueness in Texas law. Legally speaking, a parent in the state is allowed to use corporal force on a child as a means of discipline. However, when it becomes excessive and leaves obvious injuries, that’s when it’s considered child abuse. Were the physical injuries left on his son intentional? Mr. Peterson will argue they weren’t, hoping a trial jury agrees. If found guilty, Peterson could face 2 years in prison and a $10 thousand fine, although probation is more likely as a first-time offender.

Other Intricacies

Peterson’s case has also presented other intricacies in the legal process. The prosecutor has argued that the case’s judge be removed for disparaging comments made about not only him, but Peterson’s defense attorney as well. Meanwhile, Peterson could face jail time preceding the trial after admitting to smoking marijuana – a violation of his bond.

Career Implications

Even if he’s found not guilty, Mr. Peterson’s reputation, without a doubt, has taken a hit. While he’s yet to be released from the Vikings, the organization could drop Peterson after the 2014 season – ending a contract with a max value of $100 million that was originally intended to run through the 2017 season. Peterson is also looking at a loss in jersey sales, endorsements and questions over whether another team should give the 29-year-old player a second chance should he become a free agent at the end of the season. Peterson could also face an extended suspension from the NFL’s front office.

UPDATE:

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has avoided jail time by agreeing to a plea deal in his child abuse case.

The NFL star was initially charged in September with reckless or negligent injury to a child after admitting to disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch.

The plea deal also allows Peterson to avoid a trial, possibly expediting his return to the NFL sooner rather than later – although it remains to be seen exactly when Peterson could return to the field. The Texas native is currently on the NFL commissioner’s exempt list and the Players Union has filed a request on Peterson’s behalf for reinstatement.

The terms of the plea deal stipulate that Peterson, 29, will pay a $4,000 fine, in addition to being required to participate in community service. No mention of “child abuse” will be on Peterson’s record. Instead the initial charge has been downgraded to simply read “reckless assault.”

Peterson, one of the most dynamic running backs in the modern NFL era, initially planned to plead not guilty to the original charges.