Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson avoided jail time on Tuesday in a plea agreement reached with prosecutors to resolve his child abuse case.
Peterson was indicted in September on a felony charge of injury to a child for using a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son earlier this year in suburban Houston. The All-Pro running back says he never intended to harm his son and was disciplining him in the same way he had been as a child growing up in East Texas.
The boy suffered cuts, marks and bruising to his thighs, back and on one of his testicles, according to court records.
The case revived a debate about corporal punishment, which is on the decline in the U.S. but still widely practiced in homes and schools.
Never miss a local story.
Under the agreement approved by Montgomery County state District Judge Kelly Case and announced during a scheduled court hearing, Peterson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault.
If convicted of felony child abuse, he could have faced up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
A tentative trial date of Dec. 1 had been set in Peterson’s case.
Peterson has been on paid leave from the Vikings under a special exemption from the NFL commissioner to take care of his legal problems. It was not immediately clear how the plea deal would affect his playing status.
Last month, a visiting judge denied a request by prosecutors to remove Case as judge in the case. Prosecutors had accused Case of being biased against them and wanted a new judge appointed.
The plea deal made moot a pending motion by prosecutors to revoke Peterson’s $15,000 bond for alleged marijuana use.
Corporal punishment is legal in every state. The Texas Attorney General’s Office notes that belts and brushes “are accepted by many as legitimate disciplinary ‘tools,’” but “electrical or phone cords, boards, yardsticks, ropes, shoes, and wires are likely to be considered instruments of abuse.”
Texas law says the use of nondeadly force against someone younger than 18 is justified if a parent or guardian “reasonably believes the force is necessary to discipline the child or to safeguard or promote his welfare.”