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Star NFL player indicted for child abuse

Adrian Peterson Associated Press/Photo by Tom Gannam

Star NFL player indicted for child abuse

A grand jury in Texas indicted star Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and a warrant for his arrest was issued Friday by the Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office for “reckless or negligent injury to a child” for the way he spanked his son.

Peterson turned himself in to authorities north of Houston early Saturday morning and was released after posting a $15,000 bond. The Vikings have benched Peterson for their game Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said Friday that Peterson cooperated with the investigation and never intended to injure to the boy, who is believed to be 4 years old.

“Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son,” Hardin said of Peterson’s use what some reports call a “branch,” or “switch,” as Peterson called it, to spank his son. “He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas.”

Houston’s CBS Radio affiliate released details from the police investigation, which has been ongoing since the child’s doctor in Minnesota reported the injuries in May. The doctor’s report describes welts and scratches with some scabbing on the child’s back, buttocks, legs, and scrotum. Police said the child also had defensive wounds to his hands. The child’s punishment was for pushing another child off a motorbike video or arcade game, the report said.

Police documents also paint Peterson as open and cooperative, defending his parenting style and even showing authorities one of his switches. In a text message used as evidence, Peterson allegedly said he wants his kids to know “daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

Toward the end of his police interview, Peterson said that while he would reconsider the instrument, he believes his intent was right and he would not reconsider spanking. “I know how being spanked has helped me in my life,” he said, according to the police report.

A previous grand jury earlier this summer decided not to charge Peterson, Minneapolis’ WCCO-TV reported. Peterson told WCCO he was surprised to face charges again. And under the current charge, Peterson could face two years in prison.

The allegations perhaps couldn’t come at a worse time for Peterson or the NFL. The league has faced virulent accusations of incompetence and cover-up for the way it has handled the suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, after a video showed him punching a woman who is now his wife. Statements from the NFL and league commissioner Roger Goodell of what they knew and when often appear to contradict what reporters and law enforcement officials have stated, leading many to call for Goodell’s resignation.

The nuances of the Peterson case likely won’t make any league action here easily accepted, either.

In what any other week might have been a fierce debate over when spanking becomes beating, Peterson’s case finds itself squarely in the domestic violence controversy, caught between a public wanting someone to punish and a league desperately trying to protect its image. In the NFL’s new domestic violence policy released Aug. 28, Goodell pledged to suspend first-time domestic violence offenders for at least six games—more if children are involved.

Peterson is no stranger to the pain of domestic violence. He learned last summer he had a 2-year-old son living in South Dakota, but the boy died in October after authorities say his mother’s boyfriend beat him to death. The 28-year-old boyfriend faces trial next month on second-degree murder charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Branch Andrew is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD correspondent.


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