Despicable behavior by celebrity athletes

Former Kansas City Chiefs running back, Larry Johnson, plead no contest on Tuesday to a domestic violence charge from last October

New Braintree, MA July 27, 2013  In the court of public opinion one needs to think about a former NFL player pleading no contest to a horrific case of domestic violence.  Simply put, by pleading no contest to a charge of domestic violence Larry Johnson is admitting to the facts of the case as they are presented by Clark County, NV prosecutors.  I did it and have no defense for what I am accused.  Johnson has a history of violence against women. 

The case was first in the news in October 2012 when former Kansas City Chief’s running back Larry Johnson was said to have choked his then girlfriend until she became unconscious.  Johnson left her in the hotel hallway wearing only her underwear – in despicable fashion.  The 32-year old woman eventually regained consciousness and went door to door looking for help.  According to media reports Larry Johnson has had several violent and coercive relationships with intimate partners.  The 2012 event occurred in Las Vegas, NV.

In 2003, Johnson was charged with aggravated assault and misdemeanor battery after being accused of brandishing a gun during an argument with a former girlfriend. The Florida charges were dropped after he completed a domestic violence diversion program. Cases like this result in  jurisdictions handling cases of DV separately without access to detail from a case that may have occurred across country say during the football season in another state. 

Given the prior cases of domestic violence including the threat to kill his girlfriend, choking to the point of unconsciousness, and use of a firearm in conjunction with domestic assault and battery, anyone involved with Johnson should be considered at high risk for domestic violence homicide.  By now Mr. Johnson is happily attached to another partner and has spun off all responsibility for these events calling them “spurious accusations of a jealous and disrespectful media seeking to besmirch his good name”.  And sadly, his current girlfriend probably believes him.

Within the next few weeks or months Johnson is apt to again become engaged in coercive control maneuvers raising the ante in an effort to blame, humiliate, and bully his mate into emotional submission.  Imagine his next girlfriend reading about Johnson leaving a woman unconscious in a hotel hallway wearing only her underwear.  Imagine then that she understands the meaning of no contest – I did it and have no defense for what I am accused.  The danger she faces is escalated the first time she confronts him with the reports she reads.  This risk is elevated further if she has any remaining self-esteem and decides he is not the man for her – he may not let her leave.  The risk to women grows when they first seek their freedom from the indenture of domestic violence.


Measuring Risk and Setting Bail

New Braintree, MA  July 8, 2013  A notorius case of domestic violence has been in the news in Maine.  Police officers shot and killed a man holding his family at bay.  The failure to measure “risk” and identify red flag behavior likely put this family and these brave officers at great risk.  The absence of a criminal record should mean nothing when making bail decisions because of the inherent secrecy that belies domestic violence and the proclivity for intimate partner abuse.  It is well known that those who would commit violence against a spouse or their own children exhibit a cowardice like no other and fly below the casual law enforcement radar when it comes to bail requirement and public safety.  The Psychological Autopsy of The Dexter, Maine Homicide revealed a host of stopping points and behaviors that required containment of Mr. Lake.  Unfortunately this did not occur. This may be the case of Mr. Phinney as well.  We do not know but the brave officers who responded to the 911 call must now wait to have thier names “cleared” by the same State Attorney General who may ultimately review the next case of domestic violence homicide – identical to this one.  Until bail conditions are tied in to level of risk posed by domestic terrorists these cases will continue to occur on a monthly or bimonthly basis.  Public safety requires an analysis of risk to make an educated assessment of bail conditions to mitigate the incidence of these cowardly acts.  The failure to assess the potential for terminal violence in cases of intimate partner abuse will result in the ongoing incidence of familicide that impacts us all.


Image Sedona, AZ

 Michael Sefton, Ph.D.

New Braintree, MA  Once again domestic violence has resulted in deadly force being used to stop one man from killing his intimate partner and the child they have together.  This cowardly man paid no attention to the court ordered protection order that was in place bringing lethal force to bear upon his family.  His guns were not removed from his control leaving him armed and dangerous.  Only this time, it is he who died in the violent final act before he could finish what he had come to do.  Police were ready for violence and met force with appropriate force resulting in death.  The surviving victims are fortunate for the action of the brave and courageous officers on duty in Calais, Maine on this night or they may have lost their lives in a murder-suicide – now all too common in northern, Maine.

The details of this Calais, ME case of domestic violence are being carefully guarded.  It is known that Daniel Phinney, 26 was out on bail after being arrested and charged with domestic violence and criminal threatening in May 2013.  At that point he must have both physically assaulted his significant other and threatened to kill or maim his family resulting in the charge of criminal threatening.  Police are quick to say that Phinney had no prior criminal history perhaps in an effort to circumvent the obvious outrage evoked by the system of bail in Maine that releases violent abusers over and over again.  Had anyone made an effort to determine the degree of risk posed by Daniel Phinney prior to his release?  Had anyone registered safety concerns based on the defendant’s behavior and history?  Had they undertaken a psychological assessment of Phinney that may have provided important details about his impulse control, substance use, and proclivity toward violence?  These details may become more apparent in the coming days.  Perhaps a second look at the Psychological Autopsy of the Dexter Maine Homicide may be of value in terms of understanding risk and red flag behaviors that warrant containment of domestic terrorists.

The Phinney case is reminiscent of the 2011 Steven Lake homicide in Dexter in too many ways.  Lake had twice been released on bail before murdering his family.  The medical autopsy concluded that “in spite of psychological counseling (the state) failed to appreciate the degree of anger and violence in (Steven Lake)”.  He too had been charged with criminal threatening after holding his family at gunpoint as he drove home the point about how much he loved them but he could not let Amy move on.  Perhaps criminal threatening behavior should trigger a closer look at risk factors when setting conditions of bail.

I was a member of a team that conducted a psychological autopsy on Lake that resulted in over 50 recommendations to the esteemed Maine Attorney General’s Homicide Review panel in November 2012.  At first glance what is clear is brash indifference toward the court protection order and the availability of firearms to the defendant.  It is now important to study the case of Daniel Phinney and learn from the many red flags he waved in the weeks prior to his death.  These events can be stopping and containments points in future cases of domestic violence and domestic violence homicide.  No family should be kept in fear by a spouse whose loathsome behavior derails all human spirit and sense of dignity.