October 8, 2014 / 11:04 AM / 4 years ago

Vikings' Peterson may have December trial on abuse charge

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Suspended Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson could stand trial in December in a Texas court on a felony charge that he injured his son while disciplining him with a thin tree branch, a judge said on Wednesday.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson leaves the field after a season-ending loss to the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in this file photo taken January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Tom Lynn/Files

Peterson, 29, was indicted in September on a charge that he caused negligent or excessive injury to his 4-year-old son in May, one of several recent domestic violence cases that have marred the National Football League’s reputation this year.

Judge Kelly Case set a tentative trial date of Dec. 1 in Montgomery County court, but prosecutors have asked that the judge be replaced. A hearing on that motion is set for Nov. 4.

Rusty Hardin, Peterson’s attorney, sought a trial date as early as mid-November, telling the judge Peterson cannot resume playing until the matter is resolved.

“He has been chomping at the bit to defend himself publicly and his lawyers have been insisting that he not,” Hardin said. “He just keeps getting hammered without the ability to respond so we want a speedy trial to get this resolved.”

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon objected to Hardin’s request, saying that incarcerated defendants get priority for expedited trial.

Peterson wore a gray suit and black tie and was accompanied by family for his first court appearance since the indictment. He did not approach the bench or address the court.

Peterson has admitted using a switch, the thin end of a tree branch, to discipline his son, but said he was not trying to injure him. It allegedly left visible marks on the boy.

Peterson could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and fined $10,000 if convicted.

Ligon asked that Case be removed, saying that last week the judge used the term “media whore” in reference to both Ligon and Hardin. Hardin said he had been called much worse and took no offense.

Case apologized, saying, “That was meant as a humorous joke and unfortunately humor is sometimes taken the wrong way.”

Peterson sat out one game and was reinstated briefly, drawing widespread criticism. The Vikings then put him on indefinite paid leave.

Peterson’s indictment came days after a video emerged in which another NFL player, Ray Rice, was seen knocking out his future wife. Rice was cut by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL after the video went viral.

Reporting by Amanda Orr in Houston; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jim Loney

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