Full disclosure – I am the owner of a Fantasy football team called Team Mike, and I recently spent a valuable draft pick for the services of the Baltimore Ravens estimable running back Ray Rice. Thus, Ray’s future professional status will affect me financially.
I drafted Ray Rice even though the NFL had suspended him for the first two games of the season because of an incident of domestic violence – i.e., he had knocked his fiancée unconscious in an elevator. As the owner of a top-tier team, I afford to miss Ray for a couple of weeks and still make the playoffs, at which time Ray would be critical to my success. Today, however, the NFL announced that Rice’s two game suspension was being increased to an indefinite suspension because the incident had been caught on a video camera in the elevator. Furthermore, the video had gone viral and was causing a public-relations nightmare.
Local Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia complained on his Facebook wall about Baltimore’s too-forgiving fans who, prior to release of the video, had been prepared to welcome Ray back following his two-week suspension. One of his friends (Madeleine) piled on by urging criminal prosecution. I suggested a different tack:
- A few commentators who aren’t hyperventilating are pointing out that we already knew that Ray Rice had coldcocked his wife/girlfriend. The only new news is that the incident was taped. Are we as a society going to double the penalty for violent crimes caught on tape? Madeleine, Rice has already been prosecuted for the assault. There is a law against double jeopardy in this country.
Incidentally, I didn’t know what distinguished domestic violence from garden-variety violence, so I looked it up. Wikipedia describes it as a pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic context. The Department of Justice uses a similar definition – “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” Criminal law, however, doesn’t like the requirement for a “pattern of behavior,” so it typically requires only “any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat of violence or physical harm committed by one family or household member against another.”
So the obvious question is why does violence against a family member require a special status, and I wonder if that rationale would be the similar to the rationale for special laws against hate crimes. According to a cursory review on the internet, it appear that both sets of law impose stiffer penalties because the law considers the harm done in these contexts to be especially damaging to society. That makes a little bit of sense, but I think society would be better served if the law declined to make these micro-distinctions between victims.
That’s a slippery slope for the politically correct. (Seems I am inclined to characterize anything as politically correct if I disagree with it. :))