The New York Times schooled on Adrian Peterson

RUSSELL FISH | 9/29/2014, 12:35 p.m. | Updated on 9/29/2014, 4:03 p.m.
“Adrian Peterson Indicted” reads The New York Times online story by Steve Eder and Pat Borziof, Sept. 12.
Russell Fish

Special to The Dallas Examiner

“Adrian Peterson Indicted” reads The New York Times online story by Steve Eder and Pat Borziof, Sept. 12.

Elder and Borziof wove a powerfully emotional story that probably signaled the end of the $100 million career of one of the most productive NFL running backs ever. Furthermore it fit nicely into the meme of violent football players and in particular violent Black men.

In short, it was a great story, in fact, too great a story to fact check.

Over the next week the Times ran no fewer than eight stories pounding on the criminal indictment that could send Adrian to prison for 20 years, but not one journalist of the “Newspaper of Record” bothered to read the indictment and then read the underlying Texas law.

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon released a statement, “Obviously parents are entitled to discipline their children as they see fit except for when that discipline exceeds what the community would say is reasonable.” The “Grey Lady” ran with that theme over and over without bothering to determine if it were true.

It turns out it was not. The Texas Penal Code section 9.61 clearly states:

The use of force, but not deadly force, against a child younger than 18 years is justified:

(1) if the actor is the child’s parent or stepparent or is acting in loco parentis to the child; and

(2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is necessary to discipline the child or to safeguard or promote his welfare.

None of the words following “except” exist in Texas statute. The DA made them up.

The bigger question is whether the DA instructed the Montgomery County Grand Jury with a non-existent statute to secure an indictment against Peterson for a non-existent crime.

We asked Ligon’s First Assistant DA Phil Grant if he was familiar with PC 9.61. From his response it was not clear if he was. After a few seconds he found the section and read it out loud. He then repeated word for word the statement from the press conference.

When I asked for clarification between the clear text of the state statute and his words regarding “exceeding some community standard” he said the “case law” had in essence changed the law to match his statement. When I asked for a case citation we could use for the story, he became flustered and hung up. As a journalist, having an interviewee hang up or walk out is a good sign you’re on the right track.

The DA’s behavior is ironically similar to that of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who secured an indictment of the Texas governor for performing a duty clearly described in the Texas Constitution, vetoing a spending bill. Lehmberg is an openly lesbian Democrat partisan with a substantial drinking problem and a video record of her drunk behavior. Furthermore, she is the head of the Travis County Public Integrity Division responsible for policing the propriety of public officials.