Former San Francisco Forty-Niner Kwame Harris was acquitted of two felony-level charges last week after the evidence was presented before a jury. However, the jury returned guilty verdicts on several misdemeanor offenses. The charges flowed from allegations that the former lineman got into a domestic dispute with his former boyfriend while eating at a Menlo Park restaurant in August 2012.
Authorities claim that the former boyfriend tried to add soy sauce to rice, starting a domestic dispute. Police claim that Harris pushed his former boyfriend and then hit him at some point during the disagreement. Harris maintained that he was under attack and was trying to defend himself. Police claim that the lineman's former boyfriend suffered injuries requiring hospitalization after the alleged fight.
The former 49er lineman was ultimately charged with felony domestic assault, assault and several counts of misdemeanor assault and battery. He brought the issues to trial, where the jury returned not guilty verdicts on the felony charges.
In domestic violence cases prosecutors have some discretion under California law in many cases in whether to pursue misdemeanor charges or raise felony-level allegations in a domestic violence case. Authorities may also seek to add misdemeanors later on after originally charging a felony.
Different factors may come into play in the decision-making process--such ideas as whether there are allegations of the use of a dangerous weapon, the degree of injury (if any) related to the alleged dispute and other concepts. Often domestic violence allegations erupt after an argument allegedly gets out of hand.
Domestic violence charges may arise when a person claims that a spat turned physical. In addition, domestic violence statutes apply to a variety of relationships, including spouses, adult partners and even people who previously had a relationship.
Harris is expected to appeal the misdemeanor domestic violence, assault and battery convictions.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Ex-Niner Kwame Harris guilty of domestic violence," Vivian Ho, Nov. 6, 2013