Editorials

Decision not to charge Tyreek Hill doesn’t exonerate him — or the Kansas City Chiefs

No charges for Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill after investigation

The Johnson County District Attorney said he won't file charges against Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill or Hill's fiancee Crystal Espinal. It was the latest off-the-field development for Hill, who has a history of domestic violence.
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The Johnson County District Attorney said he won't file charges against Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill or Hill's fiancee Crystal Espinal. It was the latest off-the-field development for Hill, who has a history of domestic violence.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Tyreek Hill doesn’t exonerate the Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver.

And Wednesday’s announcement that investigators did not have enough evidence to determine who committed a crime doesn’t change the fact that the Chiefs organization is playing a dangerous game.

If past is prologue, the Chiefs will quickly move on from the district attorney’s damning non-indictment of Hill and get back to the unsavory business of employing talented players with troubled pasts. The Chiefs will hope against hope that the house of cards they’re building with Hill and others doesn’t come crashing down when history, perhaps inevitably, repeats itself.

At Wednesday’s press conference, a visibly frustrated Howe made clear that neither the Chiefs, nor anyone else, should have confidence in Hill’s innocence.

“We believe a crime has occurred,” Howe repeated to reporters. But without additional evidence or the cooperation of Hill’s fiancee, Crystal Espinal, prosecutors could not prove who was responsible for harming the couple’s 3-year-old son.

“A child has been hurt,” Howe said. “So, yes, as a prosecutor and a father of four kids, yes, it frustrates me when someone hurts a child that you can’t do anything about it.”

The district attorney said he would rather let the guilty go free than convict the innocent.

Sadly, in this case, neither parent is innocent. As Howe noted, someone hurt the 3-year-old child, who has now been removed from the parents’ custody. The lack of charges amid compelling evidence of a crime suggests a lack of cooperation and truth-telling in the investigation. And if Espinal lied to investigators to protect Hill, she did her young son no favors.

Hill has a well-known history of abuse. He punched and choked Espinal, his then-pregnant girlfriend, while in college at Oklahoma State.

In March, Overland Park police took two reports at Hill’s home, one for battery and another for child abuse and neglect. While the criminal investigation has concluded, the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ child protection case is still ongoing.

As the child abuse investigations played out, the Chiefs went about business as usual, allowing Hill to participate in offseason workouts.

Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach stuck to a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach, saying only that the investigation would likely “work itself out.”

Incredibly, the Chiefs did not bother to wait for any resolution in the Hill case before adding another player with a violent past to the roster. Which brings us to newly signed defensive end Frank Clark. His talent for sacking NFL quarterbacks is duly noted and no doubt an appealing draw for the Chiefs.

Clark, though, accepted a plea deal while at the University of Michigan years ago after being kicked off the football team for a domestic violence arrest. Clark eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of persistent disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

But the fact that Clark managed to dodge a legal bullet doesn’t make him a good fit for the Chiefs. Nor does it explain the Chiefs’ penchant for drafting or trading for abusers.

Kareem Hunt was cut by the Chiefs last season after video surfaced of the running back kicking a woman in a hotel in early 2018. And former Chief Jovan Belcher killed himself on Arrowhead Stadium premises in 2012 after fatally shooting Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his child.

With that devastating history still looming large and Hill’s case hanging in the balance, why would the Chiefs roll the dice on another player with a blemished record?

Until there are actual consequences for violent behavior, nothing will change. Not in the Kansas City Chiefs organization or the rest of the NFL.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Veach and head coach Andy Reid could choose to look the other way. But they and the NFL should commit themselves to finding the truth and bringing justice in Hill’s case. While the star wide receiver can invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a criminal inquiry, the NFL can compel a player to cooperate with an investigation.

The NFL should do that without delay. Most of us have no tolerance for domestic violence and neither should the Chiefs or the NFL.

The Chiefs, though, have shown little inclination to do the right thing. When Hill showed up for offseason conditioning earlier this month, Reid said, “I’m not here to judge. I’m here to coach.”

In cases such as this one, that’s not nearly enough.

Weeks after authorities confirmed they were investigating two reports involving a child at the home of Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Johnson County District Attorney said Hill wouldn’t be charged.

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