Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson just can't catch a break, on or off the court. Charged with violating his probation after charges of domestic violence, the infamous football player managed to only acquire community service and and counseling. As a "thank you" for his work on the case, Ochocinco slapped his attorney's bottom in court. In turn, however, the South Florida judge Kathleen McHugh "slapped" the player with thirty days in jail. The courtroom filled with laughter, the judge banged her gavel, and with mouths agape Ochocinco and his attorney processed the sentence. Ochocinco's action was disrespectful to the judge and her court, to the charges of domestic violence he had been brought in for, and to the stereotypes often bestowed upon athletes.
The legal lingo attributed to conduct that is not in accordance with the judge's court rules is "contempt of court." In this case, the athlete did not direct any inappropriate behavior toward Judge McHugh. However, by slapping his representative's butt, he showed the courtroom and the judge that he treated the legal matter like a pointless formality. Even though he stated that he was not offended by the action, the attorney's reaction is irrelevant to the judge's decision because every court operates by rules at the judge's discretion. What Judge McHugh saw was an abusive man who was relieved of his domestic abuse charges as a result of a technicality, who mocked the courtroom by applying jock logic to a very serious matter, and who made the courtroom giggle.
Imagining an NFL-stature man headbutt his wife is jarring. Charges of domestic violence are unlikely to put a female judge in a positive state of mind in the first place, especially after reading the applicable legal briefs, so it is likely that she had already formed an opinion of the athlete. Johnson was truly a step away from jail, and he clearly benefited from an attorney who did his due diligence and effaced his jail sentence. It is unclear whether Ochocinco has never been briefed on appropriate courtroom behavior (laughable, given the amount of charges he has accrued over the years), on Florida judges' reactions to contempt of court, or on garden-variety respect for authority figures.
Through his thoughtless action, Ochocinco harmed the already-tainted reputation of athletes who lead with their gargantuan paychecks and are consistently worshipped by the booming sports entertainment industry. A ring or a trophy should not excuse disrespectful, misogynistic, or criminal behavior. Johnson, like many other infamous athletes, relies on his fame and fortune to cover up the self-indulgence of his personal life, and he not only deserves the sentence he received from Judge McHugh, but he ought to stay in that cell for another 30 days to think about the stupidity and recklessness of a butt slap in a court of law.
Domestic violence is not funny. What is also not funny is that men like Ochocinco can get away with serious charges by paying top dollar attorneys, while the rest of the world can keep their arms at their sides, speak when spoken to, and give the Judge his or her earned respect.