Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has avoided criminal penalties for domestic assault, due directly to the failure of his alleged victim to show up and testify before a jury. He may not be quite as fortunate before the NFL’s in-house judicial system.
Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, the NFL says that outside investigator Lisa Friel will review Hardy’s court file as part of the effort to determine whether Hardy violated the personal conduct policy, in the absence of a conviction, guilty plea, or any other resolution imposing responsibility on Hardy. The league office declined comment when PFT posed the specific question of whether the league will be requesting from Hardy a copy of the transcript from the 2014 bench trial at which the alleged victim showed up and testified.
Given the consequences of the league’s failure to ask Ray Rice for a copy of the notorious in-elevator video, it’s a given that the league will ask Hardy for a copy of the transcript. Hardy’s lawyer may resist, especially since the transcript wasn’t generated by the court but by a court reporter hired by Hardy’s lawyer. If Hardy’s lawyer resists, the message to Hardy needs to go like this: “You won’t be playing until you produce the transcript.”
If/when (when) the league gets the transcript, the question becomes whether the transcript (or any other aspect of the court file) reveals one or more violations of the personal conduct policy by Hardy. There’s a chance Hardy admitted to certain conduct that the league would deem to be a violation of the policy. There’s a chance that the alleged victim accused Hardy of certain conduct, that he denied the accusation, and that the league will conclude that the alleged victim’s version is more accurate.
Then there’s the question of why the alleged victim didn’t show up to testify. If, as has been reported, Hardy settled the alleged victim’s civil claims (i.e., paid her a significant amount of money), the NFL will be entitled to explore that issue and to consider whether the payment by Hardy indicates responsibility for something that would constitute a violation of the policy.
Either way, the sudden resolution of Hardy’s criminal case in a way that allowed him to walk doesn’t mean he’ll be waltzing right back to the NFL. Before the Ray Rice video emerged, a first-time offender with no criminal consequence would get a slap on the wrist, at most. In the new world of NFL justice, those factors become much less likely to shield a player from discipline.