Adrian Peterson appeared in a Texas courtroom on Wednesday morning, to answer to charges that he abused his 4-year-old son.
The Vikings running back did not enter a plea at his first court appearance since being indicted on a felony count of reckless or negligent injury to a child. Instead, his attorney, Rusty Hardin – who has represented athletes like Scottie Pippen and Roger Clemens – did the talking, pressing Judge Kelly Case for a speedy trial.
"He's been chomping at the bit to defend himself publicly," Hardin said of Peterson. "This is the place to resolve all those accusations."
Hardin hoped that the case could go to trial before Thanksgiving, but judge Case said no date was available that soon, and set a tentative trial date of December 1. Hardin added that if any standing cases fall off the docket before then, he'll ask to have Peterson's case moved to November, with the hopes that his client can resume playing in the NFL this season.
That might not be possible, given a surprise move by the prosecution. District Attorney Brett Ligon said he planned on filing a motion to have Judge Case removed, citing comments he made about both lawyers (Case reportedly referred to both Hardin and Ligon as "media whores.")
"That was meant as a humorous joke, and unfortunately humor is sometimes taken the wrong way," Case told Ligon. "That's not how I feel about either of you."
"Just for the record, I don't take any offense to it judge," Hardin laughed. "I've been called much worse."
If granted, the prosecution's recusal motion would almost certainly push the start of Peterson's trial back; a hearing to determine whether Case will be removed is set for November 4.
Peterson has been banned from all team-related activities since September 17, though he's maintained his innocence, admitting that, while he regrets disciplining his son (reportedly with a switch), he did not mean to cause him grievous harm.
"I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser," Peterson said in a statement. "No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and the harm I caused him."
Following the hearing, Hardin addressed reporters with Peterson standing beside him, and called his client "a really good man that I am incredibly proud to represent."
"This is a case about parenting decisions," Hardin added, "and whether something unfortunate happened when a parenting decision was made by a man who believes strongly and loves his children very much."
If convicted on the charge of reckless or negligent injury, Peterson could face up to two years in prison.
At the heart of his case will be a jury's determination on whether his disciplinary methods fall within the standards found in the local community; Texas law offers no definition of those standards, but says that corporal punishment is justified if a parent or guardian "reasonably believes the force is necessary to discipline the child."
According to the Associated Press, the Texas Attorney General's Office notes that items such as belts and hairbrushes are "accepted disciplinary tools," while "electrical or phone cords, boards, yardsticks, ropes, shoes and wires are likely to be considered instruments of abuse."