Tyreek Hill: A legal perspective on where things stand and what we learned

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 28: Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs acknowledges the crowd after a catch during the first half of the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 28: Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs acknowledges the crowd after a catch during the first half of the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

Tyreek Hill received no suspension from the NFL following reports of child abuse, so what now for the embattled wide receiver from a legal perspective?

The NFL announced this morning that Tyreek Hill will face no suspension as a result of accusations of child abuse made in March and the release of a threatening audio recording in April. This case has been full of twists and turns. At one point, it looked like Hill would never see a football field again. Now, he is looking at a monster contract extension possibility from the Chiefs.

Now that it is all said and done, where are we at?

First, it is important to note that the criminal case remains inactive. Should new evidence come to light in the next few years that demonstrates there was an action on Hill’s part that was criminal, the case can be reopened. There is a statute of limitations (essentially a time clock) on how long the District Attorney’s office has to bring charges, but unless something new comes to light, that clock will run, and Hill will not face criminal charges.

From a family court standpoint, the court is still involved in Hill’s life. Family court focuses on the welfare of a child—making sure that a child is in a safe environment. This is still ongoing and is entirely separate from any criminal case.

In the league’s statement, they make mention of clinical evaluation and therapeutic intervention being ongoing. This is likely at the behest of the family court. The family court has likely ordered clinical evaluations and therapy for Hill to be ongoing. This will help him learn the proper ways to deal with anger and how to be a proper parent including discipline techniques. The family court will probably continue to oversee their parenting for the foreseeable future, probably another six months or so.

There is also a third part of the legal system that is now in play: If you remember, Crystal Espinal filed a custody action to determine custody of the recently birthed twins. This is not because Hill is denying he is the father, but rather it is part of determining a custody arrangement.

Espinal and Hill are no longer romantically together, so they will need the court to determine issues such as visitation, child support, holiday schedules, etc. That is the reason behind the custody action. These can drag on, and the arrangement will be entirely sealed so no one will know what custody arrangement is agreed upon or ordered by the court. I do believe, however, that within one year, a custody arrangement will be in place.

The NFL, in its statement, did leave open the possibility that more information could come to light that might make them rethink no suspension, however, for now, Hill is looking forward to a contract year with a full 16 games in front of him.

So what does this teach us as consumers of news and football?

First, and most importantly, I think it teaches us to pause before we immediately react. We have become a reactionary culture so enthralled with the speed of news that we don’t take a moment to evaluate and gather all information. This led to, in my opinion, a number of missteps along the way—whether that be unfair editing of an audio recording or the simple statement that the criminal case had been reopened. It reminds us to take a moment before we immediately react, to gather all information before we pass judgment. Which leads me to the legal side.

From a legal standpoint, it reminds us of the fundamental cornerstone of our judicial system: that you are innocent until proven guilty. Many people, both inside and outside Chiefs Kingdom, immediately called for his release, for him to be jailed, etc. The simple fact, though, is that Hill is innocent until proven guilty. Put yourself in the shoes of someone accused of a crime you didn’t commit. You would want the benefit of innocence, wouldn’t you? It is one of the things that makes our justice system unique, that the prosecutor carries the burden of proof rather than the defendant.

The system isn’t perfect and that has been on display throughout this process. We’ve examined the pros and cons of plea deals, the differences between family court and criminal court, and we have had the chance to be critical. All of these things allow us to examine our justice system, but fundamental to it is innocence until guilt is proven. Let us all remember that as we move forward; maybe we will be less quick to judge and more inclined to think critically.

At the end of the day, as this is put to rest, I hope we all come away having learned something: to be careful with our hot takes. Now, let’s put this behind us and get ready for training camp because the Cheetah is back and this offense is unstoppable.

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Cheers, Chiefs Kingdom, and here’s hoping you never have a legal lecture from me ever again.