Antonio Davis is not an NFL star.
He is on trial this week in a York County courtroom, charged with criminal domestic violence stemming from the alleged beating of his girlfriend in March 2013. Davis is presumed innocent until the trial is over, and if prosecutors fail to prove their case, he is not guilty.
What goes on in that courtroom is nothing like what we see on TV. It is not the NFL. There is no video of the beatings. No johnny-come-lately court of public opinion, no give-the-jocks-a-taste-of-their-own-medicine kangaroo court.
America has been consumed by domestic violence for the past 10 days because of its misguided star/celebrity/athlete culture: former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (caught on video cold-cocking the woman who is now his wife), Carolina Panthers’ defensive end Greg Hardy (convicted in July of two counts of domestic assault and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend), Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (facing felony charges after admittedly disciplining his son with a hickory switch).
Huge corporations that pay millions to be associated with the NFL and its players are now running scared, demanding an end to the “new” problem of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is not new. It happens hundreds of times in York County every year. At least 380 arrests this year already, police statistics show, and well more than 400 last year.
Because the victims are real women with bruises and cuts, and the accused do not play football, the public rarely takes notice. “Good Morning America” sends no reporter to find out why this terrible scourge is upon the land, as it and seemingly every other national news outlet has done amid the NFL scandals.
The trial that started in court Wednesday is about one of those real cases. The accused is an ex-con. The victim admitted in court she kept the guy around in part because she couldn’t pay the rent.
Real-world domestic violence.
In his opening statement to jurors Wednesday, Davis’ lawyer brought up the recent NFL domestic violence scandals that have mushroomed into a national news phenomenon. Assistant public defender Phil Smith argued that Davis, 31, is not on trial in that court of public opinion, which right now abhors domestic violence because athletes were caught behaving badly.
“Domestic violence is the only news on every channel the last week and a half,” Smith said. “You have to put that aside, all you have heard, and decide this case here.”
There were no TV crews, NFL fans chanting for a guy to play or to get benched forever. No talking heads on TV who look the other way when athletes act badly, then drop the hammer when the beating of a woman is on display for all the world to see.
Just a man accused of beating his girlfriend and threatening to kill her. No audience. No ratings.
Davis has two prior convictions for domestic violence and other crimes, but the jury will not hear about that. This trial is about just this one case from March 2013. All that is allowed into evidence is what happened then.
Assistant Solicitor Kristin Smith told jurors Wednesday that domestic violence is about one thing:
It is about a woman named LaToya Allen, 30, a mother, who told police in 2013 that Davis held her against her will for two days. She told them Davis hit her hard enough to bust her lip, that he kicked her in the stomach, that it was all she could do to crawl away and try to escape.
Later she recanted, saying she loved Davis – sounding a lot like the NFL wives and girlfriends who claim love and take poundings and don’t run.
Allen testified Wednesday that she changed her story because Davis forced her to recant to save him.
That’s domestic violence in the real world.
A police officer and her apartment manager said she was terrified after the incident. But within days, she was on the phone with Davis at jail, and again, and again.
Domestic violence in the real world.
During her testimony Wednesday, Allen shook. Maybe it was the cold courtroom. Maybe it was fear.
Phil Smith, the defense lawyer, got Allen to admit she signed papers to try to get the charges dropped against Davis, that she changed her story at least twice – even claiming at a bond hearing last year that it never happened.
Allen admitted to all of that, because she was forced by Davis.
There is no TMZ video, just a victim and the man accused of beating her, who hasn’t said a word in court. But on recorded telephone calls from jail, played outside the presence of the jury, he was heard talking to the victim about what to say to get it all dropped.
A jury will have to decide if Allen was a victim, or not. If there is proof she was beaten, or not.
Jurors will not know about other charges Davis faces – conspiracy, failure to appear in court, shoplifting, more. They will not hear of his convictions for shoplifting and drug and gun offenses. They will not hear of his two previous convictions for domestic violence.
They will not be told how, in June 2013, while on bond for the March 2013 incident, an indictment was filed against Davis. The indictment alleges that – barely three months after allegedly beating Allen – Davis choked a woman and hit her with a plunger.
The victim in that alleged assault is 30 years old.
She is a mother.
She is LaToya Allen.