What at first looked like a minor incident has started to spiral out of control for Joseph Randle. After being technically arrested and then ticketed for possession of marijuana in his home town of Wichita, Kansas, it appeared possible that he might survive the incident and be able to compete for his roster spot with the Dallas Cowboys. But the story took a turn for the worse when it was reported that he was under investigation for domestic violence.
The drug charges have been dropped, at least for now, but the woman involved, Dalia Jacobs, has filed a petition for a protective order, claiming that Randle pointed a gun at the car she and their child were in, and also broke the window of the car with his fist. The Wichita police have only stated that the investigation is continuing.
"We're still actively investigating this incident. We take domestic violence very serious ... This is not over," (Wichita police Lt. James) Espinoza said.
The information coming out about this case is, at the very least, confusing and at times contradictory. The initial call referenced a gun, but no gun was located by police. Subsequent information indicated that the gun may have been taken from the scene by a third party, but that is unsubstantiated at the time. There was no mention of the broken car window or that Randle had any injuries to his hand from punching a window out. From the coverage of the incident, the alleged threat with a gun and damage to the vehicle may not have been brought up until Jacobs filed the petition for the protective order. There is also the puzzling question of why, assuming that it was this incident that prompted the original call to police, she was in his hotel room as the original reports of the drug incident indicate.
Randle is potentially in very serious trouble if any of the events concerning the gun and car window are substantiated. At the moment, it does appear that there is a witness who is supporting Jacobs' account. Although I am not an expert on the law, it appears that Randle can be charged with aggravated assault, since his act would lead Jacobs to reasonably believe that he would cause her seriously bodily harm with the gun by pointing it in her direction. That is a felony charge. This may come down to whether the police find the account of his action credible. They could also discover that this is an attempt by Jacobs to coerce Randle into giving her more money. At this point, there is no way to determine what actually happened from media accounts, and the police are not likely to reveal what they find until they are ready to either proceed with charges or drop the investigation.
Compounding the situation for Randle is that this has occurred in the wake of the whole Ray Rice debacle, and clearly would fall under the NFL's policy on domestic violence under the revised personal conduct policy that was proposed last summer and approved by the owners in December. According to the NFL's explanation of how the policy will be enacted, this mandates a six game suspension for the first offense and banishment from the game for a second. From this explanation, the NFL will undertake an investigation of this unless there clear evidence that nothing actually occurred. The NFL will not interfere with the law enforcement investigation, and will likely take their cue from what they eventually release.
However, it should be kept in mind that the underlying purpose of the NFL policy is the protection of the league, not ensuring that justice happens or that the player's rights are protected. If this becomes a big story in the media, the league may feel the need to come down hard on Randle even if the authorities do not pursue charges. This could be more likely if Randle is not charged due to the witness being found less than credible and the investigation is not able to conclusively state what actually happened. The league may want to make an example of Randle to show how tough they are on domestic violence. Given the sometimes arbitrary way Roger Goodell has dealt with problems in the past, this cannot be discounted.
At least this has happened at the beginning of the offseason and the team and the league should be able to find out more about what really happened before any suspensions would have to go into effect. Hopefully the truth will be determined and the appropriate actions can be taken.
This has turned into a true nightmare for Randle. It certainly further complicates the decisions the Cowboys now have to make regarding his future with the team. If he is going to be suspended for six games, there may not be enough reasons to keep him on the roster. Although the actual events may not be as bad as alleged, all of this certainly relates to Randle's poor decisions, starting with fathering a child and not making proper, legally sufficient provisions for its care. In six years of working with a law enforcement agency, I saw frequent use of the term "baby mama drama" to refer to situations like this where conflict arose between a woman and the man who got her pregnant without any, or at least sufficient, commitment to her or the child. It is the source of a surprisingly large percentage of calls that police have to deal with, and many of these are domestic violence situations. Far too many young men are fathering children and then having to deal with years of legal problems and conflict. When that young man has a six figure or larger salary as a professional athlete, it just ups the ante and gives the mother of the child more motivation to get support for her and the child from the father.
Joseph Randle is going through a great deal of trouble because of a bad decision he made. And bad decisions seem to happen far too often with him given his shoplifting arrest just a few months ago. This is another thing that the Cowboys have to take into consideration when figuring out what his future with the team is, if any. It is sad and tragic to see a talented athlete suffer so much from what are largely self-inflicted wounds.