Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said on Tuesday that the bout between two Mater Dei soccer players that left one with a brain injury and a broken nose did not meet legal standards for ” criminal hazing or assault, but he is willing to consider further evidence.
News of last week’s fight went viral, eclipsing the accomplishments of the champion soccer team, its coaches and academic officials. Many have wondered why Spitzer did not file criminal charges in this case, whether against the boy who won the fight or against the principals.
Spitzer, in a statement to the Southern California News Group, explained why he saw the altercation in the Mater Dei locker room as “mutual fight”, despite a Santa Ana police report describing the injured player as “defenseless”. Police recommended assault charges against the winner.
“A thorough investigation”
“This incident was thoroughly investigated by law enforcement and reviewed ad hoc by the most experienced prosecutors in my office to see if we could prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. “said Spitzer. “We can not.”
Spitzer added that neither of the two players participated in the game against their will, which appears to be a tradition of Mater Dei’s football team called “corps”.
“The participants knew they were being filmed and they started punching. A few punches landed; others didn’t, but it’s clear both participants tried to hit as many punches as possible, ”Spitzer said. “There is not the slightest evidence to show that this was anything other than a mutual combat situation with two willing participants who traded blow for blow, including repeated blows to the head. one another. This does not make it acceptable. But it is not a crime.
No one tried to stop the fight
He added that no one, not even the participants, tried to stop the fight until the damage had been done.
“At no point did either of the players in the fight tell the other player to stop, even when the punches turned to head butts and attempted head shots. When another (observer) said to stop, both players stopped punching, ”Spitzer said.
The Southern California News Group does not name the two participants because they are minors, but describes the injured player as Player 1 and the other as Player 2. Player 1 was about 50 pounds lighter than Player 2.
The rules of the game of “bodies” are few: the players hit their torso until one of them gives up. No punches are allowed below the waist or to the face. However, during the match in question, both players started swinging in their faces, according to two videos of the altercation obtained by Southern California News Group and a lawsuit brought by the injured player.
Halfway through the fight, Player 2 landed a punch and then a second to Player 1’s face.
Player 2 “hit (Player 1) on the right side of the face with his left hand before (Player 1) could hit,” the Santa Ana police report said by the detective. David Angel.
“After that it looked like (Player 1) was stunned for the first time in the game / fight. Up to this point, (Player 1) would move forward and hit (Player 2) blow for blow after each rally. After being hit this time, (Player 1) stood in front of (Player 2) without moving while holding his right hand over his eyes. It was an apparent sign that he was done with the fight and couldn’t continue the match.
“In my opinion at that point (Player 1) was no longer in the fight due to a punch injury. I believe that the fact that (Player 1) stopped hitting and moving towards (Player 2) and instead stopped and put his hand on his face, a reasonable person would recognize that (Player 1) was injured and helpless at that point, ”Angel wrote.
“At that point (Player 2) threw a final punch that went beyond the scope of the game. The last punch was a punch to a defenseless opponent because he was injured and stunned by the blow. previous fist, causing serious bodily harm to (Player 1) ‘s face, ”Angel wrote. “Based on the video evidence, it is clear that the two boys involved were willing participants in the game ‘Bodies’.
He added: “Based on the documented injuries, which included a broken nose and lacerations above both eyes, I am forwarding this report to the … district attorney’s office for the filing of felony battery charges (Player 2).
“Unacceptable” hazing in any form
While concluding that there was not enough evidence to press charges, Spitzer urged anyone with more information to contact his office.
“As the elected district attorney for Orange County, I have and will continue to protect our children from harm. The safety of our children is the responsibility of all of us, ”he said. “At this point, there is no evidence of hazing or any other crime that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“I have and continue to be prepared to review all information relating to this incident and any incident involving potential hazing in our schools. Hazing in any form is unacceptable and if I can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone – whether a player, a coach or a school administration – is ‘is engaged in or has tolerated hazing, I will hold him accountable. “
Spitzer also said school athletics should aim for better driving.
“What happened in Mater Dei’s locker room on February 4, 2021 is nothing anyone should be proud of and it doesn’t fit the kind of character each of us should want for our children,” Spitzer said. “Schools must remain safe places for our children to thrive and learn – and to develop the character we want to see in all of our children. Watching two kids swap shots in a locker room should be unsettling for everyone. It was for me.
Brian L. Williams, a lawyer for Player 1, said his lawsuit was aimed at protecting other student athletes.
“It’s not my role to prosecute minors for crimes, that role is for the district attorney,” Williams said. “But I know what happened in the locker room was wrong. I also know that what happened in the locker room is the result of multiple institutional failures.