Folks, I’m hoping you didn’t misplace your pitchforks and torches after attempting to run Reuben Foster out of town. It’s time to dip the rags in kerosene and light those suckers again.
Foster’s ex-girlfriend testified Thursday in a preliminary hearing at the Santa Clara Hall of Justice, and her testimony was every bit as incendiary as you imagined it might be. Full disclosure: I did not attend the hearing. I was flying back from Houston, where I had covered Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Western Conference final. By the time I landed in Oakland, the bombshells were already dropping in San Jose.
Here’s a quick summary, in case you weren’t surfing TMZ.
As her lawyer suggested she would, the ex-girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, recanted her accusations of domestic violence against Foster. But she did more than that. Ennis admitted that she made up the allegations (which included Foster punching her up to 10 times and puncturing her eardrum) specifically to ruin the linebacker’s NFL career; that she also stole money and jewelry from him; that she falsely accused another man of domestic violence in 2011, in Louisiana.
So many bombshells.
Foster will be back in court next Wednesday, at which point the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.
That seems like a long shot, doesn’t it? It’s one thing when an accuser backtracks on accusations; that is not uncommon in domestic violence cases, which are fraught with complications. It’s another thing when that accuser systematically dismantles her original claims, and offers video evidence (of a different altercation, involving Ennis and another woman) to back up the new story.
This case has been unpredictable from the outset. Alas, public reaction has not. We leaped into a swamp of conclusions the moment Foster was charged. And if we know anything about human nature, we’re about to do it again.
Remember when people occasionally waited for facts and analysis before forming unassailable opinions? Those days have gone the way of the rotary phone and the fullback.
Opinion massed against Foster when he was arrested on Feb. 11, and became a tsunami on April 12 when additional, salacious details emerged in the case. Many people argued that the 49ers should have released Foster on the spot. The charges were horrifying, after all. And why would the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office advance those charges against a local celebrity unless it had an airtight case?
Foster, who had already built a short list of minor offenses, became a marked man. And it was troublesome that many of the people speaking out on his behalf seemed either to (a) focus on his value to the 49ers as a football player or (b) reveal a general distrust of women.
The rush to judgment never made sense, though. I am absolutely certain that the vast majority of domestic violence charges have merit. Considering the shameful way victims of abuse have been, and still are, treated by the legal system, and the risks they incur by speaking up, you can bet that most of the accused are guilty as charged.
But whether 98 percent of DV charges are real, or whether it’s 99.5 percent or whatever, that’s still not certainty. The small sliver of doubt should have told us to wait for more facts before judging Reuben Foster. The 49ers were correct in suspending him from team activities as the case unfolded. It now appears they were correct in not severing ties with the young man.