Somebody needs to speak up for Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson.
Johnson, the flashy former National Football League player, was locked up in the Broward County Jail this week for giving his male attorney an appreciative pat on the rear end during a court hearing.
Patting the rear ends of lawyers is generally outside the boundaries of decorum in the courtroom, but it didn’t seem too out of line to me considering Johnson’s line of work and the fact that the judge invited a celebratory response from a former player with a long history of being fined for excessive touchdown celebrations.
“Are you satisfied with the assistance of your attorney?” Broward County Judge Kathleen McHugh asked.
“He’s awesome,” Johnson answered.
“You should be,” the judge continued. “He’s an excellent attorney and did a great job for you, sir.”
And that’s when Johnson gave his attorney a gentle pat on the rear end as the two men stood at a lectern.
Johnson, 35, was in court over an incident last summer when he head-butted his then-wife, Evelyn Lozada, during an argument. That led to his arrest for domestic violence and caused the Miami Dolphins to cut him from the team — an ignominious end to a career that included six Pro Bowl selections.
That case was about to be resolved with probation and none of the jail time he could have faced. And then at the very end of the hearing, Johnson’s pat.
“Is there something funny about what’s going on here today?” McHugh asked, as her own bailiffs and deputies laughed at Johnson’s gesture.
“I didn’t laugh,” Johnson said. “No ma’am.”
“But the whole courtroom laughed because you just slapped your attorney,” the judge said.
Johnson’s lawyer, Adam Swickle, tried to help his client.
“I think he was just happy, judge,” Swickle said. “He’s been living with this jail sentence over his head. He didn’t mean it as any disrespect to the court.”
But the judge wasn’t about to be soothed.
“The whole courtroom is laughing because he slapped you on the behind,” she said.
Is that Johnson’s fault? He was prompted to celebrate a good outcome for himself, and he did it in a way that, for him, was remarkably restrained.
After all, this is a man who was fined so often for excessive on-field celebrations that he once held up a sign on the sidelines that read, “Dear NFL, please don’t fine me again!!!!!!” Which got him another $10,000 fine.
As a result of the butt tap, Judge McHugh voided Johnson’s plea deal and ordered him locked up in the Broward County Jail for 30 days.
If the judge’s point was to impress upon Johnson the seriousness of domestic violence, she could have done that very effectively by not accepting the plea agreement and sending him to jail for the full year the conviction allowed. Then there would be no occasion for celebratory butt slaps.
But to take it out on Johnson after letting him slide on the domestic violence charge seems poorly timed.
And if judges can be so arbitrary with their power, there ought to at least be sentencing guidelines for these demonstrations of gratitude.
This way when Johnson or others similarly pre-disposed to displays of celebratory behavior find themselves in court, they’ll know what sort of jail time they’ll face if they get carried away.
So here are my sentencing guideline suggestions for excessive courtroom celebrations:
Patting a male attorney on the rear end: 30 days in jail.
Patting a female attorney on the rear end: 60 days.
Pouring a bucket of Gatorade on an attorney: 30 days.
Dancing in the courtroom: 45 days.
Booty dancing in the courtroom: 60 days.
Booty dancing in the courtroom with the bailiff: 90 days.
Ending testimony with a mic drop: 60 days.
Throwing cash in the air (a.k.a. “Making it Rain”) at the defense table: 60 days.
Making it Rain at the bench: 1 year.
Moon-walking to the fingerprinting table: 45 days.
Making “Lambeau Leap” onto jury box: 30 days.
Making “Lambeau Leap” onto jury box with jurors in place: 6 months.