The Chicago Blackhawks have reinstated prospect Garret Ross after criminal charges against the 23-year-old were dropped. He will return to the Rockford IceHogs for the remainder of the season, according to the Blackhawks’ statement.
Ross was charged in February with one count of non-consensual dissemination of sexual images, also known as “revenge porn,” after he allegedly shared images of a woman engaged in a sexual act. She had not expressed her consent to share the images. The offense, according to court documents, occurred in August 2015, only months after Illinois made sharing revenge porn a felony.
“On March 23, 2016, the Chicago Blackhawks suspended Garret Ross after learning of a legal proceeding against him, and stated at that time that the suspension was indefinite pending the outcome of the legal process,” the Blackhawks’ statement reads. “We learned today, March 29, that the legal process concluded in Illinois with the dismissal of all charges against Garret. As a result, Garret Ross is reinstated with the IceHogs, effective immediately. We will have no further comment on the matter.”
The charges against Ross were dropped because the Blackhawks prospect was in Michigan at the time the image was allegedly shared.
"This is not a crime that occurred in the state of Illinois," DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack said, per the Chicago Tribune. "Further investigation revealed that Ross and the recipient were both in Michigan at the time."
Charges against Ross can still be filed by the woman, though the charge does not carry the same weight in Michigan. In Illinois, Ross’ actions were considered a felony, punishable by a maximum of three years in prison and $25,000 fine, but it would be a misdemeanor in Michigan.
Ross last suited up for the IceHogs on March 18, but was scratched for games on March 19 and 20 before being suspended indefinitely by the Blackhawks on March 23. In 59 games this season, Ross has seven goals and 20 points, which is a sizeable step back from his 21 goals and 43 points for the IceHogs in 2014-15.
Ross is in the final season of his three-year, entry-level contract and has not made his NHL debut. He will become a restricted free agent at season’s end.