The Rules of the Game

On July 12, 2012 by

In a competent legal investigation, it’s best to start with the facts. Then, apply the law.

Storm Klein measures 6-2 and weighs 242 pounds, at least according to his official online bio. Who knows what he weighs now, after an offseason under Mickey Marotti‘s supervision.

For three years, Klein occupied a position of responsibility. Sure, he’s a kid, a college student. But The Ohio State University, and by extension the state of Ohio, pays for his education. In exchange, he plays football for a top-tier program. Inherent in this agreement is an expectation that Klein will, well, behave himself. The scholarship contract all student athletes sign explicitly allows such a scholarship to be revoked under a wide variety of circumstances. For good reason. A free education and a spot on a football team are privileges. With privilege comes a level of responsibility. Responsibility that exceeds that of an average college student.

On July 7, Klein was dismissed from the Buckeyes following his arrest by Columbus police on one count of domestic violence and one of assault. He was held overnight after his arrest and posted bond the following morning, resulting in a release conditional on a laundry list of “good behavior” requirements. No trial date has been set.

The following report by the Columbus Dispatch speaks for itself.

The report, which said the woman is the mother of their child, said that Klein “violently and purposely grabbed” her by the forearms and slammed her into the front door, causing an abrasion and swelling to the left side of her forehead and scrapes on both of her forearms.

Those are the relevant facts. Now, the law.

Ohio Revised Code 2919.25: Domestic violence.

(A) No person shall knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a family or household member.

(B) No person shall recklessly cause serious physical harm to a family or household member.

(C) No person, by threat of force, shall knowingly cause a family or household member to believe that the offender will cause imminent physical harm to the family or household member.

Section (F) of O.R.C. 2919.25 defines the types of victims covered by the statute. Included in section (1)(b): “The natural parent of any child of whom the offender is the other natural parent or is the putative other natural parent.”

If you violate sections A or B of the statute quoted above (the relevant portions for Klein’s purposes), you’re guilty of a first degree misdemeanor. The sentencing guidelines allow the judge to send the defendant to prison for up to six months or fined up to $1,000.

Further, Ohio has a hybrid  “mandatory arrest” policy for domestic violence complaints.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2935.032 (A)(1)(A); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2935.03 (B)(3)(B) provide for a preferred arrest policy when there is “reasonable grounds” to arrest; however, when there is probable cause to arrest, arrest is mandatory.

Courtesy of the American Bar Association.

This means two things.

First, the term “domestic violence” includes a wide array of actions. If you intentionally hurt, attempt to hurt, or recklessly hurt someone in your house or a member of your family, you’re guilty. Same goes if you cause said victim to believe that you’ll hurt them.

Second, a police officer’s options in the case are somewhat limited. Whether the officer has “reasonable grounds” or “probable cause” (terms that are not construed as strictly as you might think) for arrest, he or she is strongly encouraged, and sometimes required, to do so. It should be noted here that a mandatory arrest does not lead to a mandatory conviction. Nobody’s rights are violated in this process. The man and the women are forcibly separated until the police have time to sort the situation out.

The laws governing domestic violence are strict. They should be. For most of our history, violence against women (both physical and sexual) was grossly underreported. When crimes were reported, they weren’t taken seriously. Neither of those injustices have been eradicated by laws such as those listed above, but the situation has improved as a result of their implementation.

When putting the facts and law together in this case, it becomes abundantly clear why the police decided to arrest Klein and why Urban Meyer elected to dismiss him from the team. Simply put, it’s an easy case. If the Columbus police department’s account is to be believed, and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be, Klein’s actions certainly qualify. Because the victim was the mother of his child, she’s covered by the statute. Further, the “probable” cause standard for mandatory arrest easily covers such injuries, indicating that the officers were required to arrest Klein on the spot.

When confronted with the above information, the path forward was likely clear for Meyer. This is a serious charge, and it appears that the police had ample evidence to support the victim’s claim. Klein also violated one of the “core values” of the Ohio State football program in committing the crime he’s been charged for. Keeping him on the team would have been both immoral and weak.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the ordeal was Meyer’s statement announcing Klein’s dismissal, which stated that, ” ‘[i]f there are any changes in the charges, we will re-evaluate his status.” He’s been widely praised for leaving the door cracked for Klein, just in case the charges turn out to be unfounded. It’s a move that Klein’s lawyer, Larry James, has been careful to highlight.

“I believe when this is said and done, this will be resolved in Storm’s favor, with an exclamation mark.”

- Larry James, courtesy of the Columbus Dispatch.

Don’t hold your breath.

Alan Dershowitz, a controversial but brilliant Harvard law professor and defense attorney, has written extensively on the current state of criminal justice in America. One of his more well-known contributions was to lay out the “Rules of the Justice Game,” the first two of which are particularly relevant to Klein.

Rule I: Almost all criminal defendants are, in fact, guilty.
Rule II: All criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges understand and believe Rule I.

So Storm Klein is probably guilty, a fact which his lawyer may be more sure of than you or I. He’s paid to represent his client in public, and it would be foolish to say anything that could be construed as an admission of guilt.

What does all of this mean?

For Urban Meyer’s part, you almost have to feel sorry for the guy. He’s dealt with three separate situations involving Buckeye players and their highly public run-ins with the law, subjecting him to criticism in light of his perceived misdeeds at Florida. However, two things should be noted. First, he didn’t recruit any of the offenders. Second, he’s dealt with each situation both decisively and fairly. He deserves nothing but praise.

Domestic violence is a serious crime. The criminal justice system will administer consequences for his actions. Those consequences are designed to reflect the judgement of society.

But don’t let anything should a basic truth: Klein (probably) broke the law. He (probably) broke one of his team’s core values, of which he was (probably) aware. He (probably) broke one of our society’s most basic values.

In short, he (probably) violated his responsibility.

Playing for the Buckeyes was a privilege that Klein was lucky to enjoy. One he (probably) doesn’t deserve. Not anymore.

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