Case against UT's Chris Beard could prove to be drawn-out, experts say

2022-12-21 15:56:06 By : Ms. Jane Bian

AUSTIN, Texas -- The legal process for Texas men's basketball coach Chris Beard in the wake of his arrest early Monday on a felony family violence charge after a woman told police he strangled and bit her might take more than a year to reach its conclusion, several experts with knowledge of Texas law told ESPN.

Beard was arrested by Austin police and booked into Travis County jail at 4:18 a.m. CT on Monday and subsequently suspended without pay by the school after a woman, who said she and Beard had been together for six years, told police he became "super violent" after she broke his glasses. He was booked on a charge of assault on a family or household member in which their breath was impeded, which is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He posted a cash bond and was released from jail Monday afternoon.

The next step in Beard's legal proceedings will involve the Travis County district attorney's office, which will evaluate the case and work with Austin police to investigate the allegations against Beard, according to the sources, who added that the district attorney's office may move slowly as it goes about the painstaking work of conducting that investigation.

According to Texas law, the district attorney's office will then present its case to a grand jury once the investigation is completed. The grand jury could then eventually decide to indict Beard on the current charges against him, add charges, reduce charges or decide altogether against proceeding with the case.

One local attorney who has been involved in multiple domestic violence cases in Austin said Beard's case might not be tried for as long as a year and a half -- if it goes to trial. Plea agreements can also happen in these situations, he said.

As revealed in the police affidavit first reported by the Austin American-Statesman, the woman said she called police early Monday morning because "I just did not feel safe" after Beard allegedly attacked her. She also told police that Beard "choked me, bit me, bruises all over my leg, throwing me around and going nuts."

She told police that the couple had been arguing for a few days about "relationship issues." She said she entered a guest bedroom to talk to Beard and then broke his reading glasses because she was upset. About "10-15 minutes" later, Beard walked to the master bedroom, where the woman offered Beard a new set of reading glasses before he slapped the glasses she was wearing off her face, threw her off the bed and began to choke her, grabbing her from behind, she said. The woman told police, "Yes, I could not breathe. He did it for probably like five seconds."

As Beard choked her, she said, "I couldn't move or do anything at all." After choking her, Beard threw her back onto the bed and got "within inches or her face" before the attack stopped, the woman told police. She had visible bruises on her face, arm and leg and told police "my leg is really killing me right now."

Beard went before a magistrate judge for his bond hearing, wearing jailhouse black-and-gray stripes and with his hands cuffed in front at his waist. Beard was told he could communicate with the woman but not in a threatening manner, was ordered to stay 200 yards away from the residence where police were called and was told he is barred from possessing a firearm.

Beard nodded his head and answered, "Yes, sir" several times when addressing the judge. Jail records show Beard posted $10,000 bond. He didn't answer questions when he left the jail with his attorney, Perry Minton.

Minton did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment about Beard's case Tuesday, but earlier told the American-Statesman his client "should have never been arrested."

The University of Texas, meanwhile, did not announce any upcoming news conferences or offer additional updates about Beard's tenure Tuesday.

"The university takes matters of interpersonal violence involving members of its community seriously," the school said in its announcement of Beard's suspension Monday.

Texas assistant Rodney Terry was named acting head coach after Beard was suspended without pay following his arrest and led No. 7 Texas to an 87-81 win over Rice on Monday night. After the game, Terry told reporters that Texas officials had not told him about his future as acting head coach.

Beard, who returned to his alma mater two years after leading Texas Tech to the 2019 national title game, had aimed to help the Longhorns become a national title contender again. This season, he has assembled the best Texas team in recent years, which has prompted talk about the school returning to the Final Four 20 years after its last appearance in 2003.

Beard is in the second season of a seven-year deal that pays him $5 million per year. His contract contains a provision, however, that could allow the school to fire him for cause -- and not pay him the nearly $30 million remaining on his deal -- for conduct that reflects poorly on the university, the program, the coach or the university system, which includes a felony charge.

While Beard's arrest has been the biggest story in college basketball, a local nonprofit that serves survivors of domestic violence said the safety of the victim should be the priority.

"While The SAFE Alliance has no firsthand knowledge of the very serious allegations against Mr. Beard, we know too well the frequency of intimate partner violence," read a statement from Austin-based SAFE Alliance, which serves the survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation and domestic violence. "Strangulation, part of the allegation here, is increasingly common and especially dangerous. And unfortunately, while intimate partner violence occurs in all types of circumstances, it is a recurring theme in men's high school, college and professional sports. But this conversation should be first and foremost around the health and safety of the survivor. Statistically, only 2 percent of survivors make false allegations, yet the most common response is to disbelieve the victim or fail to take action."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.