By Nomaan Merchant
DALLAS — Johnny Manziel was indicted Tuesday on a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from allegations that he assaulted his ex-girlfriend during a night out in January.
Already dropped by the Cleveland Browns, two separate agents and all of his endorsers, the 23-year-old will face the possibility of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The prosecution also further imperils an already jeopardized NFL career, particularly as the league takes a tougher public stance on domestic violence.
Here’s a look at the case and what’s expected to happen next:
Manziel’s ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, has accused him of hitting her as she tried to escape a car he was driving. She said he hit her hard enough to rupture her eardrum, causing temporary hearing loss.
Crowley alleged that she and Manziel had a confrontation in his hotel room around 1:45 a.m. Jan. 30 and that he forced her to leave the hotel with him. The two allegedly made it to her vehicle, which was in front of a Dallas bar. He began driving the car, but stopped when she tried to escape and dragged her back inside.
She said the two continued arguing as he drove her to her Fort Worth apartment, about 30 miles away.
A judge has granted Crowley a protective order against Manziel.
Manziel’s attorneys have said he will plead not guilty to the charge, made public Tuesday morning, and that they intend to fight the case. One attorney, Robert Hinton, told The Associated Press that both sides will meet with a judge to set a bond, and Manziel will be booked, likely later this week.
Rather than arresting Manziel, Dallas police sent their case for referral to a grand jury, which received the case last week. Lawyers watching the case have said that’s unusual.
“That doesn’t describe a very strong case for the state,” Hinton said, though he added that he thought authorities had been “totally fair, totally objective” in their handling of the case.
Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk said in a statement that the case would move forward.
“As always, we respect the criminal justice process and the decision that the Dallas County Grand Jury has made in regards to this case,” she said.
THE LIKELIHOOD OF A TRIAL
Hinton called the prospects of a deal before trial unlikely, but added such discussions were premature. But some note both sides have incentive to make a deal.
For Manziel, a highly publicized trial with testimony about his behavior that night — and possibly surveillance video as evidence — could worsen his already slim chances of returning to the NFL.
For prosecutors, a trial carries uncertainty and extra scrutiny on Crowley, who would likely be the main witness and whose credibility and conduct on the night of the alleged attack would be questioned.
David Finn, a Dallas attorney and former judge, predicted the sides would reach a deal, with Manziel possibly agreeing to undergo some kind of counseling or rehab.
But another Dallas attorney, Toby Shook, said the notoriety of the case might push it to trial.
“Usually a lawyer tries to work things out quietly,” the former prosecutor said. “That can’t be helped in this case.”
A CAREER IN JEOPARDY
Manziel, a Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M, is a free agent without representation after two agents let him go while demanding he get a second round of treatment for drug and alcohol use. For the second agent, Drew Rosenhaus, it was the first time in his 27-year career that he terminated a contract with a player.
Manziel faces possible discipline under the NFL’s policy on domestic abuse, which was revamped after the league was widely criticized over its handling of former Baltimore running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence case.
Asked if Manziel would accept substance abuse or anger management treatment as part of a deal, Hinton said: “From a personal side, we certainly want to get all of our clients to seek the proper programs that they may need, whatever they are.”