The weekend news that Browns running back Trent Richardson has been named in an assault lawsuit triggered a fairly simple chain of logic for many Cleveland fans: (1) Richardson wasn’t arrested; and (2) if he wasn’t arrested, he must be completely innocent.
A report from FOX 8 in Cleveland bolsters this faulty line of thinking, under a headline proclaiming that Richardson was “cleared” before the suit was filed.
But the decision not to charge Richardson under a criminal justice system that requires proof guilt beyond a reasonable doubt doesn’t mean Richardson will be exonerated under the much lower standard for civil liability. (O.J. Simpson can explain the difference.)
Per the report, the authorities closed the case after the two women who allegedly were assaulted by three other women at the direction of Richardson stopped cooperating. “We attempted several times to have [the women] come on station to fill out witness statements because the original witness statements we couldn’t read,” Capt. Jim Drozdowski of Lorain County Sheriff’s Office told FOX 8. “We needed to talk to them to find out what all took place. They made no effort to contact us, and we worked on this for a week.”
The lawyer for the two alleged victims claims they made statements at the scene, and that there was no need for further cooperation. It’s also possible, if not probable, that the lawyer told the women to not say anything more, since anything they said to authorities could have been used against them in their civil case.
Richardson is accused among other things of slamming his hand onto the women’s vehicle, causing more than $1,500 in damage. He told the authorities that he “put [his] hand down” on the car in self defense, “to stop them from hitting me.”
(Richardson is really strong, but we didn’t know he was strong enough to stop a car with his bare hands.)
Thus, the decision not to charge Richardson won’t matter in the civil lawsuit. Eventually, the women will tell their version of the events to the jury, Richardson will tell his side, other witnesses will be called, other evidence will be introduced, and the jury will decide whether it is more likely than not (i.e., 50.1 percent or more likely) that the women’s version is the right version.
If the jury believes the plaintiffs more than the jury believes Richardson, the plaintiffs will win. And Richardson will be deemed legally responsible for the alleged injuries. Regardless of whether he was or wasn’t charged with a crime.