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Untangling the legal debacle with Bayern Munich’s Lucas Hernandez

Ignoring court orders is always a bad strategy.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Hertha BSC - Bundesliga Photo by TF-Images/ Getty Images

Bayern Munich’s record transfer, French defender Lucas Hernandez, has found himself back in legal trouble by flaunting orders of the Spanish criminal courts more than once. Many observers were more than a little surprised when a Spanish court ordered Lucas to appear before a magistrate on October 19th in Madrid to speak to imminently serving a six month sentence in prison. Kindly, the court has offered him the penitentiary of his choice.

The question on many people’s minds is just how did this highly paid professional athlete get to the point where he is facing a potential jail sentence arising out of an incident involving his then girl friend in 2017? Some parts of the story are clear, some are not. We’ll do our best.

Initial Incident

Hernandez and his then girlfriend engaged in a mutual assault on each other in February of 2017 arising out of a argument they had on the streets of Madrid. Neither party asked for the other to be charged but the police were called by members of the public who saw them involved in a pretty violent altercation at the side of the road. The details of the events are out there on the internet, but they really are not that important. Both Lucas and Amelia De la Ossa Lorente were charged and convicted with various offences. One of the offences Hernandez was convicted of was domestic assault, due to the fact he had been living together with Amelia for some time. Since they were convicted within a short period of time after the events we can assume that they pled guilty.

The court, in a even handed fashion, actually gave them both an identical sentence. The operative parts (ignoring the usual odds and sods of no firearms possession etc) were ordered to perform 31 days of community service, and to not come within 500 meters of the other party for six months. Such orders are very typical in domestic assault cases in western democratic countries. The idea is to prevent further violence between the parties.

Now if the parties decide to want to get back together before the six months are up, they would normally hire a lawyer to bring a motion to the court to vary the conditions. Suffice to say Hernandez could certainly have afforded to do this if he so chose.

Off to Las Vegas

Now either Lucas and Amelia are very bad at math, or they decided to completely ignore the court order that they not come within 500 meters of each other. The couple decided to go to Las Vegas to get married and then carried on to the Bahamas for a honeymoon. They arrived back in Spain on June 13, 2017 and were both detained at the airport. Amelia lucked out, the judicial officials had never served her with a copy of the restraining order and thus could not charge her. She walked on a technicality as they say. Lucas was not so lucky and was charged with breech of the order.

Lucas decided to fight that charge and it apparently made its way to a final hearing in December of 2019. This is where it gets a little bit unclear. Some sources suggest that the final disposition was a six month sentence which he appealed immediately. Other sources suggest that the final sentence was six months incarceration, but that the sentence was suspended (“suspenders” in the legal vernacular) which means that the sentence will not be imposed right now, but if you get in trouble in the future you will have to serve the whole six months plus any punishment for the new offence. It’s kind of like extra motivation to insure the good behaviour of the offender.

Back before the Court

No matter which scenario is correct we can safely say Lucas is now back in hot water. Either he has finally lost his appeal against the six month sentence, or there has been a new offence alleged that has brought the suspended sentence forward. Both ideas have been reported in the media.

One line of reporting suggests that the court has denied his appeal because the court cannot give him relief from the six months imposed because he has a prior criminal record, with some sources suggesting he has two prior convictions (one being the assault and one being his failure to complete the community service).

The other line of reporting suggests that he is back in court because of the fresh charge of his failing to fulfill his community service obligations. Either way there is a lot of reporting that he did not fulfill his community service as ordered. Not good.

RB Leipzig - FC Bayern Munich Photo by Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images

So what is this all about?

Some people seem bemused that a man could end up in jail for an incident involving an assault that neither participant reported and the two people have “moved on” and, in fact, married and had children together. They would be right that this would be a strange outcome, but that is not what is happening here. The assault case was all over in 2017. What Lucas is “going before the man” about is breeching a court order and judges, for good reason, don’t take that lightly.

The legal system works when orders get respected. Domestic violence is a serious problem and treated that way. When a public figure flaunts a clear order in front of the world, he cannot be ignored. Anyone who has ever spent any time in bail court or a domestic court knows how it works. People without two pennies to rub together show up and literally beg to have the order modified because they can’t afford two homes or they work in the same place and they need their paycheck to pay the rent, or they can’t afford child care for the children they have together. The magistrate carefully weighs the request with the risk of further violence or even death always in the back of their mind. It’s a hard job and they make hard decisions. But the parties involved, for obvious reasons, don’t simply get to make the choice for themselves. Too many partners are intimidated into recanting allegations and end up the victims of violence again.

Criminal law is not controlled by, or driven, by the parties. Nor should it be. In the U.S. the case is between “The State of California v. Jones” and in Canada cases are listed as “Her Majesty the Queen v. Smith”. Criminal cases are not private wrongs against other individuals, they are crimes against the community and treated as such.

Likely Outcomes

There are a raft of potential punishments facing the elite defender and predicting what will happen is tough. The judge has some discretion but it appears that Spanish law may not allow for a complete non-custodial sentence. While it seems unlikely he will have to serve the full six months, some are predicting that he will be released after only serving a few days of his sentence. It is possible that he may be allowed to pay a large fine in exchange for his sentence being suspended. Whatever way it goes hopefully the young man, and the large numbers of people watching the case, will learn that ignoring a court order in a domestic violence situation has consequences, no matter how rich and famous you are.