Chad Johnson has done a lot wrong – both on and off the field.
But Johnson, the former standout NFL wide receiver, did nothing wrong in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida courtroom on Monday.
What happened to Johnson, 35, was nothing short of a mockery of justice. Not only should Johnson be mad at what happened, every honest, level-headed person in this country should feel the same way.
Enter Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh.
McHugh should be ashamed at the least, and maybe even be removed from the bench at the most, for her actions.
Let’s get this straight: No jail time for the domestic violence charge against his now ex-wife, but a 30-day jail sentence for a pat on the butt to his lawyer?
Both sad and sick.
And nobody wants to hear about courtroom decorum. That’s total nonsense.
First, this judge had already agreed to a no-jail plea deal. This even though Johnson had head-butted his then so-called reality TV star wife, Evelyn Lozada. Did we mention that he was on probation when he did it? Yet, McHugh was going to let him waltz out of court a free man.
Then this wacky judge praised Johnson’s attorney, Adam Swickle. She even asked Johnson if he was satisfied with the job Swickle had done for him.
Johnson, in the most harmless way, said to his lawyer, “good job” and patted him on the backside; a common practice in the pro sports business Johnson comes from.
The courtroom erupted in laughter and this judge had her feelings hurt, as if they were laughing at her or Johnson was somehow showing her up.
It was a total overreaction. McHugh pulled the plea deal back and said no deal.
“I don’t know if you’re taking this whole thing seriously. I just saw you slap your attorney on the backside. Is there something funny about this?” McHugh asked, slapping the plea deal document down on her desk. “The whole courtroom was laughing. I’m not going to accept these plea negotiations. This isn’t a joke.”
On this day, Johnson was the smarter person involved in this sad case of justice. Johnson tried to convince the judge he wasn’t playing around.
“This is your courtroom. I have no intent to make this a joke. It’s not funny,” Johnson said to Judge McHugh. “My life is in shambles right now and I try my best to laugh and keep a smile on my face.”
She didn’t care and handed out a sentence of 30 days in jail. Johnson was handcuffed and hauled away.
Sadly, misguided sports writers and analysts, of course, played the pile-on game. It was easy to blame Johnson and try to use this incident as another example of why some owner in the NFL shouldn’t give him a chance to keep his playing career going.
Sorry, not this time. Johnson – who didn’t play last season after getting cut by the Miami Dolphins early in camp – did NOTHING.
We shouldn’t stand for such misguided justice, even if you want to call Johnson a knucklehead for some of his other missteps along the way.
Sadly, we’ve seen so much heavy-handed justice against football players lately. There was Michael Vick. There was also Plaxico Burress.
Of course, those were much more serious cases. Still, many believed the jail times didn’t fit the crimes.
We’ve even seen some crazy suspensions and penalties in the NFL since Roger Goodell took over as commissioner. He kicked the door in and announced he was the new sheriff in town and he was going to clean up Dodge City, er, the NFL. But Goodell got power drunk, suspending players, many of whom weren’t even convicted of any crimes. Charges are just charges.
We also saw The Commish heavy-handed in the New Orleans Saints bounty case. He eventually had to reduce suspensions and admit his evidence wasn’t as airtight as most had thought.
The bottom line in the Johnson case remains that the legal system isn’t a joke. But after such a ridiculous ruling, it’s hard to think it isn’t.