Chad Johnson Gets 30 Days in Jail for Butt Pat

The former NFL wideout formerly known as Chad Ochocinco will spend a month in jail for patting his lawyer on the fanny.

chad-johnson-handcuffs

The former NFL wideout formerly known as Chad Ochocinco will spend a month in jail for patting his lawyer on the fanny.

CNN (“Butt pat lands former NFL star Chad Johnson in jail“):

As an NFL player, Chad Johnson patted a lot of men on the butt when he liked their work, but on Monday, defendant Chad Johnson found out that one Florida courtroom was not the place to play that game.

After Johnson patted his lawyer on the rear, Judge Kathleen McHugh rejected Johnson’s plea to a probation violation in the domestic violence case involving Johnson and his then-wife, Evelyn Lozada.

Johnson was arrested in May for not meeting with his probation officer and was in court Monday to enter a plea.

After he was asked if he was pleased with his attorney, the former wide receiver once known as “Chad Ochocinco” gave his lawyer, Adam Swickle, a gentle pat on the rear.

McHugh was furious when people in the audience laughed.

“There’s nothing funny about what’s going on here today,” she told Johnson.

Johnson, 35, replied that he wasn’t laughing.

Then McHugh said, “I don’t think anything’s funny about it, Mr. Johnson. This isn’t a joke.”

Johnson said he didn’t do it as a joke.

Swickle agreed, saying: “I don’t think it was done as any disrespect to the court. I don’t think he meant to get a reaction from the court room, judge.”

The judge told Johnson she wouldn’t accept a plea deal that involved only community service and more anger management counseling. Instead, she sentenced him to 30 days in jail and tacked three months onto his one-year probation, which would have ended in September.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of Johnson, who has always struck me as a bit of a punk with an ego that outpaced his not inconsiderable talents as a football player. And, I stress at the outset, I haven’t followed the domestic violence case and therefore have no opinion as to whether his original sentence was fair. Nor, for that matter, do I have any opinion on whether the plea deal was a reasonable and sufficient punishment for his probation violation.

But I’m quite sure that, on the limited question as to whether Johnson’s patting his lawyer on the butt in response to the question asked by the judge should have led to the reversal of a plea deal otherwise acceptable to said judge, culminating in a month in jail, the judge’s conduct here is outrageous. It’s not only a petty abuse of power but a waste of taxpayer resources.

There is an increasing tendency in this country for judges, who are supposed to operate as dispassionate stewards of the legal system, to instead act as bullies, more interested in enforcing the outsized deference to which they feel entitled than administering justice. That the victim in this case is by all evidence a jackass doesn’t make it right.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    In the UK, patting your female lawyer’s fanny would without a doubt lead to the same kind of outcome.

  2. CSK says:

    @PJ:

    Given that the word “fanny” means “pudenda” to the Brits, it would probably lead to a sexual assault charge.

  3. Anderson says:

    I agree it’s excessive, but you don’t mess around in the courtroom, particularly before a lady judge.

    Johnson seems to have very little idea of adapting his behavior to his circumstances. Which may help explain why he’s not playing football.

  4. PJ says:

    @CSK:
    Exactly 🙂

  5. Anderson says:

    Given that the word “fanny” means “pudenda” to the Brits, it would probably lead to a sexual assault charge.

    Did not know that. Casts new light on Fanny Assingham, an English character in Henry James’s The Golden Bowl.

  6. Ben says:

    If you watch the video, it’s even more egregious. The judge was grandstanding for the entire proceeding, and was obviously trying to bait Johnson to do something stupid for several minutes. I don’t the motive here (could be a problem with him personally, with celebrities, with wife beaters), but this judge was aching for a reason to smack him down. And the “pat” was so quick, you could easily miss it. And Johnson was not smiling, joking, or doing anything disrespectful for the entire hearing, other than a small smile when she asked him if he was happy with attorney.

    This judge is a textbook example of a petty tyrant, as so many lower level judges tend to be. It makes me sick.

    And I can’t freaking STAND Johnson.

  7. rudderpedals says:

    “So dress well but leave the fancy jewelry at home, restrict your answers to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ unless the question calls for an explanation, and for gods sake don’t even think about touching my irresistible hiney”

  8. CSK says:

    @Anderson:

    And now, as well, you know the true meaning of the title “Fanny Hill.”

    Henry James’s repressed sexuality exploded all over the printed page. Exhibit One: “The Turn of the Screw.” Underneath the convoluted prose is a sex-horror story.

  9. Anderson says:

    Ben: all of that is doubtless correct, but lawyers are expected to be alert for these things.

    You’ve got a (1) domestic abuser who (2) skipped probation in front of (3) a female judge. His lawyer should have warned him (and probably did) to do NOTHING that could conceivably be taken as disrespectful.

  10. Anderson says:

    CSK: true dat. Tho I’m a little disappointed, as I’d always thought Fanny Assing-Ham was a butt trifecta. Maybe that was James’s little American joke.

  11. rudderpedals says:

    It takes a Britishism to turn the most common hiking question, “Honey, can you squeeze this into your fanny pack?” into something dirty.

  12. Ben says:

    @Anderson:

    I’m well aware of all that. But I don’t care. Judges are supposed to be above this crap. “Annoying a judge” is not a crime, and it shouldn’t carry a jail sentence.

    She wasn’t going to give him jail for beating his wife, and she wasn’t going to give him jail for skipping a hearing. But now, because he committed some vague faux pas, he’s going to jail. That is rule by fiat and caprice, and it’s abhorrent.

  13. Anderson says:

    Judges are supposed to be above pettiness. Legislators are supposed to be wise and prudent. Priests are supposed to be holy and good. Etc.

  14. PD Shaw says:

    @Ben: He’s not being imprisoned for a crime, but for contempt of court, based probably on not complying with the terms of his probation and for threatening the orderly procedure of the courts. I personally think 30-days is excessive, and probably the result of the judge not being a football fan, but he was there to beg for a second chance.

  15. PD Shaw says:

    “a waste of taxpayer resources.”

    I think you should keep in mind that the judge sees a probation-violator as a waste of judicial resources. He’s taking time from the court’s schedule, and if he’s not seriously deterred, he’s at risk of future violations, and if there are other defendants in the room waiting a hearing, they may be left with the impression that probation can be violated with little consequence. Basically, a bit of tyranny in the courtroom towards clear violators is about conserving judicial resources.

  16. Jewelbomb says:

    @Anderson:

    Not being snarky or anything, but, since you mention the judge’s gender in two of your comments, I’m curious what difference you think that makes?

  17. Franklin says:

    @Anderson: I understand the Brits are quite amused when we talk about wearing a fanny pack, too.

  18. Ben says:

    @PD Shaw:

    @Ben: He’s not being imprisoned for a crime, but for contempt of court, based probably on not complying with the terms of his probation and for threatening the orderly procedure of the courts. I personally think 30-days is excessive, and probably the result of the judge not being a football fan, but he was there to beg for a second chance.

    According to all the reports I’ve read and what the judge said in the video, he has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for the crimes that he pled guilty to, after the judge decided to reject the plea bargain that had already been struck. Contempt of court is a totally separate finding that I did not see the judge declare in the video.

  19. Franklin says:

    @rudderpedals: Oops, you’ve already mentioned this, and with more amusing results.

  20. Craigo says:

    OTB’s headline, and CNN’s, is false. (The bleacher Report, of all places, got the story correct.) The 30 days is for the violation of his probation, not for contempt of court. The incident described in the article was just something that happened during the hearing, not its crux. (I.e., Chad Johnson got 30 days in jail after slapping his lawyer’s butt, not for slapping his lawyer’s butt.)

  21. Caj says:

    Never heard such nonsense in all my life! 30 days in jail for that. Still it’s Florida and this place has some of the wackiest laws around. Shoot and kill someone and you were standing your ground! Crazy state with some crazy people especially in places of power. Rick Scott & Steve Southerland are just two of them!

  22. James Joyner says:

    @Craigo: The judge had already accepted a plea deal that involved no jail time. As part of SOP, she asked whether Johnson was satisfied with the job his attorney had done representing him in the plea negotiation. The butt pat, tittering from the gallery, and the judge’s outburst followed. The butt pat and laughter was what got the plea deal rejected and an arbitrary sentence imposed. It’s vindictive and unjust.

  23. PD Shaw says:

    @Ben: You could be right, I gathered from what I heard that she was finding him in contempt. In my state, she would have to eventually sign a written order, explaining why she found him in contempt and I’ve heard of circumstances where a judge, when putting pen to paper, reduced the time, either because of second thoughts or because the original sanction was actually directed towards others in the court room.

  24. Anderson says:

    since you mention the judge’s gender in two of your comments, I’m curious what difference you think that makes?

    Male judges sometimes don’t take domestic abuse seriously enough. Female judges sometimes overcompensate for the neglect of some male judges in that regard. Depends on the judge of course. If as Ben suggests she was gunning for Ochocinco throughout the hearing, that could be an explanation. Or maybe he was her fantasy-football pick last year, and she’s still bitter?

  25. PD Shaw says:

    If she was gunning for Ochocinco like Ben suggests (I haven’t seen much video), then its possible she didn’t like the original plea deal to begin with. Did she ask whether he was pleased with his lawyer sarcastically? Was the original plea consistent with what similar domestic abuse cases settle for, or was this a rich man’s special? I hope there is a video showing Ochocinco’s face, does he look like he’s paying attention, does he look smug or bored?

  26. dennis says:

    All the above is correct. I’ve been in court several times. Don’t make the mistake of pissing off the judge. Remember that story I recounted last year about getting thrown out of the court for making an exhasperated sigh?

  27. PD Shaw says:

    Some odd background stuff:

    After the warrant was returned, the judge reduced some of the probation requirements at a hearing back in March, where it was reported:

    Johnson was the happiest we have seen him in six months, as he goes up to pat his attorney’s derriere in court. “I thank the people that I’ve met throughout this journey,” he said outside the courtroom. “I think that storm is over now, and the sun is peeking back out, and I’m just looking forward toward what is to come.”

    Last week the probation violation hearing was postponed, and “Prosecutors indicated they wanted jail time for Johnson. It’s up to a judge to decide.”

    Yesterday, at the hearing, the Judge explained “It’s not the first time he’s behaved that way in my courtroom,” she said.

    So, Johnson was viewed in a bad light by the judge for his conduct across multiple hearings, and it sounds like the Judge was being told that she would be sentencing Johnson to jail time as recently as last week.

  28. PD Shaw says:

    A few sites reporting that the judge is legally blind, as a result of Stargardt’s Disease.