He's quite a rakish fellow, don't you think?
Daily Archives: April 6, 2005
This morning, Ryan Freel appeared in court to plead not guilty to charges of DUI, careless driving, violation of the open container law, and expired tags. Like most people, after I read the police report, I assumed that Freel was as guilty as sin, so when I heard that he pled not guilty, I couldn't begin to imagine why. But when I put myself in his legal team's shoes, I started to see why they would recommend it.
I started my thought process by asking myself why the officer pulled Freel over. He cited three reasons:
1) The vehicle was stopped on a ramp, and then pulled over the curb to get back onto the road.
Is this a questionable vehicular maneuver? Absolutely. But if you were lost and suddenly found yourself getting onto the wrong highway, mightn't you consider doing the same thing? Especially if you were in a big-ass SUV and drove like a typical SUV driver (aka, a dipshit)?
2) The vehicle couldn't maintain the lane.
This is suspicious, but it's not proof of anything. I drive 60 miles on the interstate every day, and I always see people who can't maintain their lane for all sorts of reasons: they're yelling at their kids, talking on their cell phones, eating their fast food, reading the paper, etc. And that's in broad daylight on a major artery in Indianapolis. What might these people be like after dark? Long story short: you don't have to be drunk to swerve.
3) Expired tags. Obviously that it's own minor issue, and a pretty understandable one since we all know how long Freel's been in town.
These observed behaviors by themselves don't add up to much. It takes the post-pull-over stuff to actually make it start to look bad. Even then, what do we have?
1) Damage to the side of the vehicle.
Big fat so what? That could have happened at any time. And it's not illegal to drive a damanged vehicle. If it were, a lot more Kentuckians than Freel would be in big trouble.
2) Freel smelled like alcohol.
Again, so what? He was partying with his teammates; they could have spilled it on him. Or he could have been drinking legally: drinking and driving is only a crime if you BAC is over the legal limit. He didn't take the breathalizer test, so they don't know whether that was the case.
3) The flask of whiskey in the back seat.
This is a lame charge. It was a flask. In the backseat. From what I read, it wasn't even empty. This shouldn't play into the rest of the matter.
4) Failing the sobriety tests.
Well, this one actually is pretty damning. But sobriety tests don't prove anything; they can only support the theory that he was impaired, which could have been caused by alcohol, but also could have been caused by extreme exhaustion (he was out way past his bedtime), extreme anxiety (he probably had some of that), or maybe even that general nervous energy that makes him so thrilling to watch on the field.
Yes, he failed the tests, but the proof of the impaired-driving pudding is in the first-hand observation, i.e. the first two points from my first list, which, again, demonstrated carelessness, but not necessarily criminal activity.
So here comes the part where I make my very first prediction of the season, of this blog, of my life (so I may end up looking like a real ass here, if I haven't already). It goes like this.
The court will:
* Make Freel pay a late fee when renewing his tags.
* Throw out the open container violation for being stupid.
* If the lawyers are good (and I expect they are), rule in Freel's favor on the DUI based on lack of evidence.
* Rule against Freel on the careless driving, resulting in a fine and some hours of community service that he probably would have done anyway.
The Reds will:
* Require Freel to complete the EAP substance abuse program, regardless of whether he really has a problem or is just a one-time knucklehead.
* Continue to say mum, commenting in vague generalities about how drinking and driving is baaaad, mmm-kay?
* Hopefully have a talk with everyone about not embarassing the team again this way, as well as not letting each other do it.
* Complete the substance abuse program and emerge will a sense of how lucky he was not to have hurt himself or anyone else, and maybe a belief that he's on this planet for a reason, and that that reason is to be totally awesome. (Yes, I realize I just put together an argument that he might not be guilty at all, but what can be proven in court and what common sense says are two different things.)
* Refuse to come within 500 yards of anything stronger than ginger ale for the rest of his career.
* Be so chastened by the incident that he'll throw himself into his work to escape. Spring training Freel will start to look like a layabout compared to the post-DUI Freel, according to whose work ethic recreation activities, junk food, even deep breaths will be too frivolous.
* Suffer a plummet in popularity in the clubhouse, having lost all sense of humor to self-flaggelation.
* Enjoy a boost in popularity withthe fans, who will view him as the poster child for self-redemption through hard work and perseverance.
In fact, thought it sounds odd, there might not have been a better thing Freel could have done for his career. Thrilling and scintillating performances weren't getting him noticed, but now that everyone had heard his name and is watching him with eagle eyes, he has the opportunity to win over all of his critics in grand fashion.
Yeah, if Freel can see this mistake as a learning experience and an opportunity to prove his mettle, I think we can see him come out on top, which is where we want all our Reds to be. So long as they never, ever do anything that stupid again.