NFL Players Accused of Domestic Violence Return to the Field
The legal system provides several mechanisms of support for victims of domestic violence, including restraining orders, injunctions for protection, and a Batterer’s Intervention Program. Accusations of domestic violence can lead to the alleged perpetrator losing custody of their children, receiving less money in a divorce, or even being deported. As a result, the law provides judges with significant discretion to avoid wrongly convicting an alleged batterer, while ensuring that victims are protected. A series of scandals in the NFL has recently demonstrated the complexity of the law of domestic violence.
Miami Dolphins Player Receives Lenient Treatment
In May 2010, police officers responded to a late-night emergency call from Miami Dolphins player Phillip Merling’s fiancée, who claimed that the defensive end had struck and thrown her. After finding the woman with a bloody lip and swollen face, officers arrested Merling and escorted him to jail. Eventually, however, Merling returned to the field without discipline from the Dolphins, and the criminal charges against him were dropped when Merling’s fiancée, who was eight-months pregnant and out of the state, did not appear to testify against him.
Recently, however, an investigative report revealed unusual connections between the Dolphins and the Broward Sheriff’s Office that arrested Merling. For example, the Dolphins used their contact in the Sheriff’s Office, a commander who had worked with the Dolphins as a security-guard side job, to ensure that they were notified when Merling’s bond was posted. Further, the commander broke from normal protocol on Merling’s release, and escorted the player out of the back door, rather than subjecting him to the reporters waiting at the front door. Finally, although a judge had ordered Merling to “stay away” from his fiancée, Merling was allowed to return to his home, with a police escort, to collect his belongings.
Addressing Domestic Violence in the NFL
Merling allegedly has continued to harass his former fiancée. However, as a result of the investigation to alleged connections between the Dolphins and the Sheriff’s Office, one deputy was demoted and all were temporarily banned from working side jobs with the Dolphins. Meanwhile, two other Dolphins players accused of domestic violence did receive punishment from their team: Tony McDaniel was suspended, and Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was removed altogether.
Merling’s case is another in a string of domestic violence cases in the NFL, perhaps most famously including the Ray Rice scandal, in which the Baltimore Ravens running back was videotaping striking his fiancée. Recently, a Senate committee questioned representatives from the NFL on domestic violence issues. In response to one NFL representative’s statement that “the union is not in the business of applying discipline” for players accused of domestic violence, one senator replied, “You’re either for stopping domestic assault, or you’re not.”
Whether you believe that the players should return to the field or be more severely punished, the legal turmoil facing these NFL players and their families demonstrates that domestic violence, and accusations of domestic violence, affect even high-profile individuals. An experienced Miami domestic violence attorney at the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, Attorney, P.A. can help you navigate the legal system and present your case, whether you are a victim of domestic violence or a victim of a false accusation.