AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas basketball coach Chris Beard was arrested and charged with choking his fiancee and fired less than a month later when the university said he was “unfit” to continue running the Longhorns program.
Now the third-degree felony charges are being dropped, as is the threat of up to 10 years in prison. Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza announced Wednesday that he likely would not be able to obtain a conviction based on the case evidence and the fiancés’ desire not to press charges.
Even when initial police reports documented other evidence, such as bite marks and a facial abrasion, without a cooperative witness, prosecutors stood little chance of reaching a conviction, domestic violence experts say.
Beard made his first public statement on the matter Thursday and said he was pleased the charges were dropped. He also said he was “sorry and deeply remorseful” to his family, friends, players, staff and Texas fans.
WHY WAS BEARD ARRESTED?
Beard’s fiancée, Randi Trew, called 911 December 12 after the two had a physical altercation at his home. According to the arrest affidavit, Trew told police that Beard hit, bit, and threw her around. She also said he choked her from behind until she couldn’t breathe for five seconds.
Beard was arrested on charges of strangulation/asphyxia and domestic violence and served more than 12 hours in the Travis County Jail before being released. The university suspended Beard without pay that same day. He was fired on January 5th.
WHAT EVIDENCE HAS CHANGED AFTER THE ARREST?
Trew issued a one-paragraph statement on December 23, stating that Beard did not strangle her. Trew also said she didn’t think Beard intended to harm her that night and that she never wanted him arrested and prosecuted.
Trew’s testimony did not address why she called 911 and other evidence cited by police, such as bite marks and bruises. But critically, it explicitly refuted the key element of the strangulation/asphyxia charge and undermined the prosecution’s argument.
“When a survivor publicly says it didn’t happen, it makes it difficult for a prosecutor to move forward,” said Jeana Lungwitz, a professor of clinical law at the University of Texas and founder and director of the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic. “What made it a crime (charge) was the strangulation.”
The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence, but Trew went public with her account of the confrontation.
“When a survivor calls law enforcement, they just want whatever’s happening to stop,” Lungwitz said. “They often don’t want anything bad to happen to their partners. They don’t want them to lose their jobs. They don’t want them to go to jail. They are scared and just want them to stop at that moment.”
COULD BEARD RETURN TO TEXAS?
There doesn’t seem to be a chance for that. Beard had five years left on a guaranteed contract, but nothing was left when Texas fired him “for good cause.” His contract included a clause that allowed him to be fired if he was charged with a crime or engaged in any other conduct not conducive to his position or that was ill-regarded for the university.
Texas officials left no doubt as to how the government viewed the matter. Vice President of Legal Affairs Jim David wrote to Beard’s attorney advising him that the coach had “engaged in unacceptable conduct which renders him unfit to serve as the head coach at our university.”
Whether or not prosecutors dropped the charges would not determine whether Beard engaged in school improper conduct, Davis wrote in the Jan. 5 letter. Texas officials declined to comment Thursday.
Beard could try to sue the school, but it’s unclear if he wants to. His attorney, Perry Minton, said he did not believe Beard breached any part of his contract.
“I am pleased to announce that the charges against me have been dismissed. While I have always believed in the truth and this outcome, it has been extremely difficult to wait patiently and not respond publicly,” Beard said in his statement.
“I am sorry and deeply remorseful to my family, my friends, all my players and staff, both recent and past, and everyone at my alma mater, the University of Texas, including the fans and supporters who were affected by this situation,” Beard said.
Texas has been led by caretaker coach Rodney Terry since Beard’s suspension.
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