Other Voices

Prosecute on-field criminal conduct

The John Jay/Marble Falls incident in which two Jay football players attacked a football official at the end of a game has had over 7 million hits on the Internet.

The response by two Star-Telegram columnists, Bud Kennedy and Mac Engel, highlight a problem that some journalists have when it comes to criminal assaultive behavior on a sports venue.

Kennedy questions whether the players should be prosecuted. But this is not mere football or schoolyard misbehavior.

Kennedy wrote that the worst case would be a Class C misdemeanor charge, which is the same level as a traffic ticket.

He asks whether it should even be that much of a consequence.

Engel wrote that if the official was not hurt, then the players should not be prosecuted.

If these journalists’ points of view were correct, then we should just declare all criminal acts by players on a sports field to be exempt. Officials, spectators and coaches beware!

Those of us who practice criminal law see other youths who commit such actions off the athletic fields prosecuted to the full extent of the law. These Jay players should expect the same.

They should not be treated any differently than my clients who commit these assaults off the playing field. The options for probation and redemption should be many.

These players’ actions could be a serious Class A misdemeanor or even a felony assault, as the helmets were used as weapons. If they did it in concert, they were equally guilty for what the other did.

Engel’s position is flawed. If a person fires a gun at another person and misses, that person has committed a crime. Just because they miss does not excuse the behavior.

The players deliberately charged and knocked down the official, and one speared him with his helmet. The criminal conduct occurred and the injuries do not matter .

I have represented young people who have pushed and assaulted teachers and others. I have advocated successfully for their probations and reduced charges, but I could not excuse the conduct with a straight face.

I fight for their second chance, but neither the prosecutors nor I would shove the criminal conduct under the rug.

I am happy to report that the majority of my clients have accepted their responsibility and gone on to live successful lives.

I commend former Euless player Eric Fieilo, who committed such an assault in a game in 2008 and eventually became a Euless policeman.

I hope the same for these John Jay players, but the system will do them no favors if they are not held accountable.

What they did was criminal behavior and cannot be ignored. There are ways to hold them accountable. Kennedy and Engle should agree.

There is no special exemption for criminal conduct on a playing field.

Richard Henderson is a Fort Worth attorney who has practiced law for more than 37 years.