New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman would have been playing football this weekend had the Patriots defeated the Tennessee Titans in their wildcard game on Jan. 4.
Instead, the Titans played—and defeated—the Ravens, 28–12, in the divisional round matchup on Saturday night in Baltimore. About 2,700 miles away, Edelman had an eventful evening with friends in Beverly Hills.
For part of the evening, Edelman hung out with his former Patriots teammate, Detroit Lions wide receiver Danny Amendola, and retired Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce. Pierce posted a photo on Instagram of the three men dining at Cantina Frida, a Mexican restaurant, at around 9 p.m. PT. It’s unclear whether the photo was taken at that time or earlier. Pierce also posted a video of Edelman, Amendola and himself at around 11 p.m. Like with Pierce’s photo, it’s not known when his video was recorded.
What is known is that 9 p.m. proved to be a problematic stretch of the evening for Edelman, a native of Redwood, Calif. It was during that hour when Beverly Hills police arrested the 33-year-old MVP of Super Bowl LII while he was on North Beverly Drive. Edelman was seen jumping on the hood of another person’s Mercedes-Benz. He was cited with misdemeanor vandalism and, according to The Boston Globe, released at the scene. The jumping, reports TMZ Sports, caused unspecified damage to the car’s hood.
California Penal Code 594 prohibits vandalism, which is defined as the malicious damaging or destroying of another person’s property.
The amount of damage caused by an act of vandalism can impact the seriousness of the charge. Under California law, vandalism is a “wobbler” offense in that it can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. Vandalism that causes $400 or more in damages can, at the discretion of the prosecutor, be prosecuted as a felony. A felony conviction can carry a sentence of up to three years behind bars in a state prison and a $10,000 fine. In contrast, vandalism that causes less than $400 in damages carries the risk of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Vandalism cases are often resolved without the imposition of any jail time. In many instances, the person apologizes, pays a fine, performs community service and makes amends with the person whose property was damaged.
Edelman was charged with a misdemeanor offense, which indicates the damage is expected to be under $400. However (and obviously) Mercedes Benz vehicles tend to be expensive and there are known for costly repairs. It remains to be seen how much damage was inflicted to the hood and how much it will cost to repair.
Edelman is scheduled to appear in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 13. It’s possible the matter could be resolved before then. A key person is the owner of the vehicle. Although prosecutors do not need the owner’s consent to pursue a case against Edelman, they would be less likely to do so if the owner and Edelman reach an out-of-court settlement.
Edelman also has potential legal defenses. He might argue that he lacked the criminal intent to engage in vandalism. Perhaps he was inebriated at the time of the incident and, if so, he might not have acted maliciously. He would still owe money to the owner of the vehicle for repairs, but the criminal case against him would become harder for prosecutors to advance. Along those lines, Pierce and Amendola could testify that their friend was not in his right mind when he jumped on the car. They might say that Edelman genuinely meant no harm.
While it’s unlikely that Edelman will face significant legal repercussions for the incident, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is poised to question why Edelman would (allegedly) jump on the hood of someone’s car, particularly when Edelman faces knee and shoulder surgeries this off-season. The team could fine Edelman for misconduct on account of him risking further damage to his left knee, not to mention being arrested and attracting unwelcomed headlines.
Don’t expect the Patriots to cut Edelman. He is clearly the team’s best wide receiver (100 catches for 1,117 yards in 2019) and is close friends with Tom Brady. In addition, the Patriots recently awarded Edelman with the Ed Block Courage Award. The award “is bestowed annually upon a player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration.” Edelman is one of the popular athletes in New England; a car hood jumping incident won’t change that.
Meanwhile, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could suspend Edelman for conduct detrimental, but that is unlikely to happen. Under Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell has the complete authority to determine if a player engaged in conduct that damages the league’s image. There are two important factors to consider: (1) Edelman’s incident has nothing to do with the sport of football, fair play, game equipment or offseason team business; and (2) Edelman neither hurt nor threatened anyone. Goodell will likely defer to the Patriots on whether the team wishes to take any action against Edelman.
Michael McCann is SI’s Legal Analyst. He is also an attorney and the Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law.