Here’s an interesting development that’s appropriate for the high school and college football season, and it underscores that the words “foul play” have as much to do with criminal law as they do with sports.
An Arlington, Massachusetts high school football player has been formally charged with criminal assault and battery, as the result of a “head-butt” he inflicted against an opposing team’s player. Arlington Catholic High School football player James LaShoto was arraigned this Friday in Cambridge District Court, where his lawyer entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. Authorities say the 17-year-old LaShoto deliberately “head-butted” Abington High School player Daniel Curtin in his (Curtin’s) head, after Curtin’s own helmet was knocked off during a Sept. 19 2009 game. Curtin suffered a concussion as a result, and could not play football for 10 days due to medical concerns surrounding his head injury. Arlington Cathlolic High School suspended LaShoto for two games as a result of the incident. (Can someone say “slap on the wrist”?) His lawyer, Ronald Martignetti, said although the play was “dirty,” it did not constitute a criminal act, and thus his client should not have been criminally charged.
An interesting question. Legally, criminal assault and battery occurs when a victim is placed in imminent apprehension of an un-consented to physical contact, and when some type of harm results from that contact (however minor the harm might be.) The legal issue that is going to determine whether or not this particular defendant should be found guilty of this charge, centers on two legal elements here – the elements of “intent” and “consent”. Specifically, intent on the part of the defendant, and consent on the part of the victim. In contact sports such as football, aggressive physical contact is unavoidably expected, and so are injuries. Players provide what is known as “implied consent” to contact of the type that would be normally expected and required within the context of the sporting activity. (The consent is “implied” by virtue of voluntarily participating in the sporting activity; hence, there is no need for players to execute written or “express” consent.)