Football star Adrian Peterson tentatively received a trial date of Dec. 1 during an appearance in a Houston courtroom today, though prosecutors said they planned to request the judge hearing the case recuse himself.
Peterson's attorney has indicated he plans to plead not guilty to charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child after he allegedly hit his 4-year-old son with a switch, leaving welts and bruises. But Peterson did not enter a plea today, as was expected.
Instead, the hearing consisted largely of his defense attorney and the state prosecutor speaking at the judge’s bench and setting the tentative trial date, but with District Attorney Brett Ligon saying he would seek to have the judge removed for allegedly calling state prosecutors and Peterson’s attorneys “media whores.”
The Minnesota Vikings running back remained seated next to his wife in the court gallery as his attorney Rusty Hardin and Ligon spoke with Judge Kelly Case at the front of the court.
Hardin asked for Peterson's court date to be scheduled as quickly as possible because "he has no ability to work" while the case is ongoing, though the prosecutor noted that he is still employed during the duration of the legal process.
"He's getting killed publicly," Hardin said of Peterson.
"He has been chomping at the bit to defend himself publicly and his lawyers have insisted that he not," Hardin added.
As such, Hardin pushed for the trial to be scheduled for before Thanksgiving, though the first week of December appeared more likely given the judge's response.
However, Ligon said that he will be filing a motion to have Judge Case recuse himself from Peterson's trial because he allegedly called both Hardin and the state prosecutor "media whores" before today's hearing. The judge appeared shocked at the remark, immediately apologized and said "unfortunately sometimes humor is taken the wrong way." The hearing on a possible recusal was scheduled for Nov. 4.
Peterson's attorney agreed to the court condition preventing the football player from having contact with the 4-year-old son involved in the charges until after the trial concludes, but asked for travel restrictions and curfew suggestions be lifted.
The role of the media in the case was brought up by both sides, with the prosecutor expressing concerns about the alleged leak of the photos showing the bruises Peterson's son sustained.
Hardin and the judge also agreed that other files describing past alleged incidents that the prosecution wished to include in the case remain sealed. Hardin did not explain what was in those files but said that they could "tremendously irreparably harm" Peterson's case.
Peterson's court hearing was in Houston because the charges were filed in Montgomery County, where he has a home. Peterson could face between six months and two years in prison, if convicted.
“This is a good man that I am incredibly proud to represent,” Hardin said at an impromptu press conference on the courthouse steps after the hearing. “This is a case about parenting decisions and something horrible happened.”
Peterson didn’t speak as he walked out of court, but he maintained his innocence in a Sept. 15 statement through his lawyer, saying, "I never ever intended to harm my son. I will say the same thing once I have my day in court.
“I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen,” Peterson said in his statement at the time.
“I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser. I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury,” the statement added.