In October, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Justyn Ross was charged with two counts: felony criminal damage and misdemeanor domestic battery in relation to a confrontation with his girlfriend. According to the police report, Ross discovered something on his girlfriend's phone that upset him which resulted in him pushing her and throwing things. Other witnesses said he caused damage to her vehicle with a knife.
Following his arrest, he was placed on the NFL Commissioner's Exempt List which means he has not been with the team since that time. Now, the Johnson County, Kansas District Attorney's Office confirmed that he is no longer facing criminal charges after an application for diversion in his case was granted.
What is a diversion program?
What exactly is a diversion? According to the official policy from the Johnson County DA:
1. "The Diversion program is intended to give a “second chance” to offenders who commit a relatively minor criminal offense."
2. "Diversion is a privilege and not a right. There is no guarantee Diversion will be granted in any given case. The needs of the offender are less important than those of public safety and the rights of the victim..."
The entire diversion program requirements can be found here.
In short, this is a program that allows individuals who commit minor criminal offenses to agree to strict requirements that they must fulfill in order to avoid charges. In addition to evaluating the nature of the original charges, the DA also looks at "whether the defendant demonstrates a genuine sense of remorse and is prepared to acknowledge the act(s) charged and accountability for the consequences of their actions."
What does this mean for Justyn Ross?
Ross was charged with felony criminal damage and misdemeanor domestic battery (with no bodily injury). Because of this, and the fact that he has no criminal history, he is eligible to apply for the diversion program. The application submitted includes background information, past criminal history, and details about the facts and circumstances of the pending charges. Along with this application, Ross submitted a fee. The DA then evaluates the application along with whether Ross showed remorse and displayed accountability for what he did.
Because he met the conditions, Ross likely was able to go directly to the diversion program. This allows him to probably get some counseling, maybe pay a fine, participate in community service, and any other things the DA believes would help rehabilitate Ross. Additionally, because he was charged with a felony, the terms of his diversion program would have to be approved by the Diversion Chief. The Diversion Chief clearly believed he was a good candidate and approved his entry.
Now, Ross is required to abide by the terms of the agreement he entered into with the DA. Assuming he fulfills all requirements, the charges will not be refiled. If he fails, the DA has options:
1. After a defendant is placed on Diversion, the State reserves the right to file a Motion to Revoke Diversion upon discovering that the defendant has failed to fulfill any term of the specific Diversion Agreement.
2. Upon discovering that the defendant has failed to fulfill any term of the specific Diversion Agreement, the District Attorney’s Office, in its sole discretion, may offer a defendant an internal sanction in lieu of filing a Motion to Revoke Diversion. Such internal sanctions may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:
a. Completion of (additional) community service hours;
b. Obtaining a substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health, or other assessment and completing any recommended counseling/treatment; or
c. Extension of the term of diversion.
If he successfully completes the program, he will be given a "second chance." This is a great way to help people rehabilitate rather than punish. It offers a chance to avoid a criminal record that could impact your future and could help you avoid jail time.
What about Justyn Ross's NFL future?
What this might mean for Ross's future with the Chiefs and his ability to get off the Commissioner's Exempt List is unclear; however, it does indicate that Ross is taking responsibility for his actions, showing genuine remorse, and truly working to make things right.
Let's hope Ross learns his lesson, completes the program, and takes advantage of the second chance he has been given.