On the night of January 9, 2012, the city of New Orleans saw Alabama commit one of the most heinous assaults in the city's history on the LSU Tigers. And no, I'm not talking about the University of Alabama's 21-0 whitewashing of Les Miles' completely overmatched bunch of Tigers in the Superdome that night.
I'm talking about the now infamous case of the Alabama Teabagger. In a hideous incident where crime imitated sport, and metaphor came to life before our very YouTube eyes, Alabama resident and Crimson Tide fan Brian Downing (presumably inebriated) decided to rub his genitals on the face of an unnamed, unconscious (and presumably twice as inebriated as Downing) LSU fan passed out at the Krystal Burger in the French Quarter.
Well, it being 2012 and all, the incident wound up on YouTube (video coming in a few more words), Brian Downing wound up arrested, and his trial begins on Tuesday.
Since this is frankly the SEC story that I've followed most closely this past calendar year (other than Bobby Petrino's fascinating affair and subsequent termination at Arkansas, a topic which I've written no fewer than 20,000 words about since April 1), I feel compelled to bring all of you up to speed on the players involved and what exactly is at stake here.
It's got drama, it's got intrigue, and a cloud of revenge hanging over the whole thing. It's the case of the Alabama Teabagger!
THE CRIME: Here is the video in question. To save you some time (unless you're into watching people cover inanimate objects with garbage), fast-forward to about 3:30 for the part of the video that has given us this court case.
DEFENDANT: Brian Downing. Downing is a 33-year-old married father of a one-year-old boy, hailing from Smiths Station, Alabama. He had been working for a sporting goods chain prior to the incident, but was immediately terminated from his position when the video above went viral.
PLAINTIFF: Some poor, unnamed dude who had to wake up with Downing's ball sweat on his face. We will call him Jean Deaux (Cajun for "John Doe") for purposes of this post. In May, Deaux filed a civil lawsuit against Downing, The Krystal Company and Big Easy Enterprises for their failure to stop the alleged assault or call law enforcement.
The suit claims "mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety and depression." I'm sure everyone looking to get out of debt or pay for their kids' college education will have a close eye on what an appropriate settlement amount is for an incident like this, and then ask themselves "Hmmmm, is that amount worth it to have someone rub their nuts on my face?" before making themselves into a "lawsuit bear trap" of sorts by chugging a fifth of whiskey and passing out face down at the Krystal Burger,
TRIAL LOCATION: As home field advantages in rematches go, the actual Crimson Tide football team having to travel to Baton Rouge on November 3 to face the LSU Tigers has nothing on the situation in which Downing finds himself.
Downing's trial will take place in Orleans Parish. There will be a jury of six Louisiana residents who will profess to have no allegiance to LSU football, which is a little like going to the Democratic Convention and finding six people with no allegiance to Obama. On top of that, veteran prosecutor George Hesni, who is trying the case against Downing, is known around his office as a diehard LSU fan. Downing's best strategy may be to call in Nick Saban and have him try to scare the piss out of the jury and prosecution. WHAT'S AT STAKE: Oh, nothing major. Just the rest of Downing's natural born prime as an adult male. Depending on just how far the prosecution chooses to push the letter of the law in Louisiana, Downing could get a minimum of 25 years, which means he'd be getting out of jail just in time to see his son teabagging an LSU fan at the Krystal Burger after the 2037 national championship game.
PROSECUTION STRATEGY: Here is the Louisiana law being applied in this case:
In Louisiana law, sexual battery is defined as "the intentional touching of the anus or genitals of the victim by the offender using any instrumentality or any part of the body of the offender, or the touching of the anus or genitals of the offender by the victim using any instrumentality or any part of the body of the victim," when there is no consent.
Tougher sentences -- with a minimum 25-year prison term -- can apply if the victim was "incapable, through unsoundness of mind, of understanding the nature of the act, and the offender knew or should have known of the victim's incapacity."
Well, I'd say what Downing was doing falls under the description of ALL those things. And the defense's motion to have the video of the incident thrown out was rejected, so if the jury hasn't already seen it, then they'll get their first horrifying dose of the footage in the courtroom. That's bad news for the defense.
DEFENSE STRATEGY: It's got to be something along the lines of "Hey, come on, it was just a joke. Our client was drunk, he was stupid...hell, he's from ALABAMA!! What do you expect??
I mean, what else can you say if you're defending Downing? To the letter of the law, Downing should go away to jail for some period of time. The questions surrounding such a harsh punishment are these:
-- Are you really putting away the type of person that prison in Louisiana is meant for? -- Is Downing really a pathological, violent criminal? -- Has Downing been scared enough already into never doing something stupid like this again? -- Oh by the way, if the victim gets a six-figure check out of it, then isn't all's well that ends well?
I think Loyola Law School professor Dane Ciolino sums it up best:
Ciolino said a jury might be persuaded by a "drunk-and-stupid" defense, given the "serious lifelong consequences" of a prison sentence and required registration as a sex offender if Downing is convicted.
"Perhaps the argument is that the crime doesn't fit the act, at least in the context in which it occurred," Ciolino said. "The hope is the 'I was drunk and it was a joke' defense will cause the jury to ignore the law. He's got two problems in this case. It's the law and the facts."
Which is a little like saying that a hurricane's not so bad except for the 120-MPH winds and the ten feet of rain water.
A couple more random wishes regarding this case on the way out....
RANDOM WISH #1: We've heard from Les Miles on every topic ranging from the taste of the grass in stadiums around the SEC ("It's very specific to the day") to the effect of the oil spill along the Gulf Coast on his team and the citizens of Louisiana, with often hilarious results. Can someone please ask Les about the Alabama Teabagger? I'm pretty sure he might accidentally tell a story about a swingers party he may have gone to one time.
RANDOM WISH #2: If Downing does go to jail, and Harvey Updike (noted Toomer's Corner tree killer) winds up doing time along with him, I'd love to see them strike up a Red/Andy type friendship in prison so we can see a redneck version of The Shawshank Redemption with Downing as Andy, Updike as Red, and Paul Finebaum as the warden. (I'll leave it up to you SEC football fans as to who would play "the sisters.")
So the rematch on the field is set for November 3 in Baton Rouge, LSU and Alabama, with the winner possibly clinching a spot at least in the SEC title game and an inside track to a berth in the national championship game.
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But in a courtroom in Orleans Parish on October 2, a much less publicized LSU versus Alabama "rematch" will take place, and for one person at least, the stakes are much, much higher.
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