KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When the Chiefs drafted a player convicted of felony domestic assault and battery in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, team officials asked fans to trust them and insisted they performed their due diligence during the vetting process.
On Monday, The Topeka Capital-Journal and ChiefsDigest.com confirmed that part of the team’s vetting included contacting the Oklahoma district attorney’s office that handled the prosecution of running back/wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Payne County (Okla.) district attorney Laura Thomas said the Chiefs contacted her office requesting background information on Hill’s case and photos of the victim, Crystal Espinal. Thomas said in a telephone interview she discussed with the Chiefs representative portions of the case that are public knowledge, but declined the team’s request for photos, citing confidentiality.
Hill was arrested in December 2014 for felony domestic assault and battery related to charges he struck and choked Espinal, his then-pregnant girlfriend. Hill, a football player with Oklahoma State at the time, was dismissed from the team in January 2015. He pleaded guilty to the charge in August 2015 and received three years of probation and no jail time as part of the plea agreement.
The Payne County D.A. said the sentence wasn’t unusual for a first-time offender without a prior criminal record – as was the case with Hill.
“If he was a two-time offender or more,” Thomas said, “there would have been a very, very different recommendation.”
Thomas also said Hill likely helped himself during sentencing by being accountable for his actions.
“Unlike some other athletes, he took complete responsibility,” Thomas said. “He didn’t blame the victim. He said, ‘I did it, I need help.’”
Thomas said Espinal was consulted before the plea deal was agreed upon.
“She was very much on board,” Thomas said. “We met at least two times and talked countless times on the phone.”
While victims of domestic abuse often suffer through batterer’s syndrome, Thomas said Espinal never wavered throughout prosecution of the case.
Whether the Chiefs reached out to Espinal as part of their background check on Hill is unclear. Numerous attempts by The Capital-Journal and ChiefsDigest.com to contact Espinal via email and telephone calls were unsuccessful.
During a post-draft news conference, however, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the team made the effort to gather as much information as possible before choosing to draft Hill.
“You’ve got to trust us that we’ve turned over every stone we possibly can turn over,” Reid said. “We’ve done as much as we possibly could in that area. Listen, you can throw a bunch of specifics at us and questions, there’s certain things we can’t answer. But we have done as much as we possibly can. That’s kind of where that trust has to come in, and that’s a lot to ask, I know. We talked to as many people as we possibly could.”
According to court documents, part of the special conditions of the guilty plea called for Hill to pay a $500 fine; $150 DNA fee; $150 victim’s compensation fund assessment; restitution in the amount of $263.14 at a rate of $20 a month; complete a domestic abuse evaluation and any follow-up; complete an anger management course; complete a 52-week batterer’s program; provide proof of full-time employment or student status; and pay district attorney reimbursement fees for two years.
Thomas said to her knowledge Hill has not violated any terms of his plea deal since the ruling.