Commentary: Zach Smith Plea in Domestic Case Doesn’t Reflect Accusations

Zach Smith, the beleaguered coach who was fired by Urban Meyer at Ohio State, was back in the news today.  Smith resolved his legal matter, the one that blew up Ohio State’s football program and got their coach and their AD suspended.  And for exactly what?  A misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

That’s right.  Smith plead guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $289.  Along the way, he lost his career, his grandfather’s legacy was tarnished forever, and Ohio State was made to look like their football program was out of control.  As part of Smith’s plea deal, his wife received a Order of Protection that is in effect for three years.  In doing so, the judge in the case said he was reluctant to issue the order, but since the football coach Smith didn’t object, he let the request stand.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would think that this mess that was created, this firestorm if you will, would have merited charges that were much more severe.  Apparently the District Attorney in Delaware County, Ohio didn’t think so.  A guy who is guilty of disorderly conduct usually gets drunk outside a bar; he usually isn’t someone who was accused of terrorist threats and threats to kill someone. By settling the case, it does make you wonder about one thing — was Smith telling the truth all along when he said his wife was lying?

Now, if you followed the case at all you would know that Smith is clearly a knucklehead.  He made mistakes for sure, taking coaches to strip clubs, taking lewd pictures at the White House, and the like.  But, from Day 1, while the world has been chastising him, he has been steadfast in one claim — that his wife Courtney was lying throughout the entire process.  Why would the DA let Smith off with what is essentially a slap on the wrist?  Why would he not be charged with making terrorist threats?  Why would he not be charged with threatening to kill his wife?

I suspect the answer to those questions is that Courtney Smith did lie to the District Attorney.  In this day and age of the #MeToo movement, arguably the most important initiative of our time, do we really think a District Attorney in Ohio would let threats against a wife slide?  I doubt it.

A few years ago, I followed a case in Scottsdale, AZ where a prominent athlete was accused of beating up his wife.  A judge issued a restraining order against the athlete, and he couldn’t see his kids until the case was resolved.  Throughout the entire process, the athlete had been adamant in his claim that his wife, who he was divorcing, was lying.  She had provided photos of her injured face, and other evidence to the court. As it turns out, the wife was lying.  The marks on her face were created when she fell down some stairs drunk.  Confronted in court, not by her husband’s attorney, but by the DA in the case, the wife broke down and told the truth. Turns out a witness had come forward, the wife’s best friend, to testify that the wife had told her the whole story. Since that time, I am always cautious in my reporting of domestic violence.  The Smith case raised some of those same red flags I saw in Scottsdale.

While this case will fade off into the sunset, the outcome brings to light a huge problem in America, which is how we try cases in the court of public opinion instead of in the court of law. It is the way our society reacts now, which is a shame in so many of these cases. Smith’s wife took their beef public, and in doing so she dragged an entire community, and an entire nation, through the mud for what is, now, considered to be nothing more than nonsense between a husband and wife.  She used the media to fight her fight, which resulted in sanctions against multiple people including Coach Meyer, for what the District Attorney says was a guy yelling at his wife.

Of course, nobody is advocating yelling at your wife is OK, and nobody is advocating that verbal abuse of any kind is acceptable.  What I am advocating, though, is in this era of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”, we all might want to take a step back and get back to old school values and old school justice.  Take the media out of the equation here and this is a case of a guy yelling at his wife while drunk, not a guy who hit her, or threatened her life, or held her against her will like Courtney Smith has claimed.  If those things had happened, her husband sure as heck wouldn’t have been held accountable to the tune of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Zach Smith and Courtney Smith had a toxic relationship that spilled into the workplace. It spilled into the lives of their family and friends too.  Neither of them are Saints, and neither of them can make excuses for their behavior. That being said, let it be known that Smith should have been fired at Ohio State, for a number of different reasons.  Yelling at his wife while intoxicated isn’t one of them.



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