In a courtroom in Texas, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has pled Not Guilty to criminal charges of beating his four-year old son. But Adrian Peterson admitted he hit the child with some kind of a stick. How can he say he’s Not Guilty? Here’s what might really be going on—
1. It’s common for accused people to plead Not Guilty early in the case. The person (and everyone else) may know they’re guilty, but will use the Not Guilty plea to stall the case. It’s a formality to buy time for the defense.
2. Adrian Peterson may really think he’s not guilty. Although the case is in Texas, the law is similar to that in Minnesota. It says:
“Assault in the 2nd Degree. (a) Whoever assault another with a dangerous weapon may be sent to prison for not more than seven years. (b) Whoever assaults another with a dangerous weapon and inflicts substantially bodily harm may be imprisoned for not more than ten years.”
The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt two things in Adrian Peterson’s case:
a. That he injured the child and caused harm
b. That he intended to cause the harm (In other words, it wasn’t an accident)
During the brief interviews Adrian Peterson has given, he’s mentioned that he’s not guilty because he didn’t intend to harm the child. Instead, he intended to discipline the child. Personally, I think this will be a tough defense for Adrian Peterson. How can a person strike a four year old with a stick and cause cuts and bruises to the child’s lower legs, buttocks, lower back, and on his hand (a wound caused by the child trying to defend himself)—and not intend or know that physical harm will be the result???
3. The penalty for Adrian Peterson if he’s found guilty of the charge is commitment to prison. Maybe Adrian Peterson and his lawyer are negotiating a future guilty plea in return for probation instead of prison. In order to buy time for this process, Adrian Peterson has to plead Not Guilty.
4. In Minnesota, Adrian Peterson is working through a case plan in a child protection case involving the same victim. It probably includes anger management, counseling, and parenting education with recommendations for further treatment. If Adrian Peterson can accomplish these goals, he may be able to negotiate a settlement of the criminal case in Texas. In light of completing the case plan, the prosecution in Texas may agree to probation for Adrian Peterson instead of prison—at which time Adrian Peterson could change his plea to guilty.