The Santa Clara County District Attorney on Thursday charged former NFL player Ray McDonald with felony false imprisonment stemming from a domestic violence report nearly two months ago during which he allegedly assaulted his then-fiance as she was holding their 2-month old baby.
The 30-year-old former football player, who was let go from both the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears, is also charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, child endangerment and violating a court order that he stay away from the woman, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Some of the encounter was recorded on the woman's cellphone, according to a probable cause statement from police, which legal analyst Steven Clark said will likely be key in the case.
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McDonald did not enter a plea during his Thursday afternoon arraignment at the Hall of Justice in San Jose. He stood by his attorney Steve Defillipis, who did not speak to reporters as both he and McDonald left the courtroom. His bond was set at $40,000 and he was ordered to return to court on Aug. 4.
If convicted of all counts, McDonald could serve up to three years in prison.
In May, Defillipis told NBC Bay Area that his client didn't harm the woman. He said: "according to at least one witness, there was no physical contact between the two. Thus, is is hard to understand why charges are being pursued."
And regarding the restraining violation order, Defillipis had said McDonald was never served with one. "The only paperwork that he was given when he left the jail was the booking sheet, no restraining order," Defilippis said in an e-mail to NBC Bay Area.
McDonald's mother, LaBrina McDonald, told NBC Bay Area by phone on Thursday that she and her husband, Ray McDonald Sr. that they weren't suprised their son was charged. "They were reaching, it's all political," LaBrina McDonald said. "This was a simple argument that got blown out of proportion. This is all about custody of their son."
But she said the "law is so biased."
"Ray is a football player," she said. "He's big."
She pointed out that when her son was first arrested - but never charged - in a fight with the same woman in August, his then pregnant-fiance was never charged with hitting him, as recorded in court documents. "She openly admitted she hit Ray, and they didn't arrest her," LaBrina McDonald said.
Ray McDonald Sr. said: "He was wrong for putting himself in that situation, but he's no batterer."
According to domestic violence advocates such as Kathleen Krenek of Next Door Solutions, it doesn't matter if the woman throws the first punch. The overall size of the "dominant agressor," she said, should be taken into account. McDonald is 6 feet 3 inches, and weighs about 290 pounds.
"It is unconscionable and illegal for any woman to be trapped, whether it be behind a dining room table or in a relationship filled with fear and violence,” Deputy District Attorney James Demertzis said in a statement.
The charges stem from a May 25 call about 4 a.m. when Santa Clara police officers responded to domestic disturbance call at a home on Carlyle Court, that LaBrina McDonald said her son owns. Until this recent arrest, he had let his ex-fiance and baby son live there so he could visit, she said. At this point, the fiance has moved somewhere else.
Prosecutors say the subsequent investigation revealed that the former defensive end had broken into the bedroom where his ex-fiance was sleeping. McDonald then then allegedly assaulted the woman as his driver tried to stop him and she tried to get away. McDonald eventually left.
As police were interviewing the woman, McDonald came back to the home, but the driver sped away upon seeing police vehicles, prosecutors said. San Jose police arrested McDonald at a different home - the home of retired 49er Justin Smith - later that morning.
Hours after the arrest, McDonald was also released by the Chicago Bears, who had given his career a second chance following his domestic violence arrest last year while with the 49ers.
On May 27, after he had posted bail, McDonald was arrested again when the woman and police arrived at the home he owns, but where the woman was living, and discovered that McDonald was there in violation of the restraining order, though McDonald's attorney said his client never got a copy of that order.
McDonald had been arrested on domestic violence charges in San Jose before stemming from a fight with the same woman. But prosecutors decided there wasn't enough evidence to charge him in that Aug. 31, 2014 domestic-abuse arrest, chalking it up to a messy, drunken fight between the two.
The 49ers reserved judgement on that arrest, but ended up releasing McDonald in December after San Jose police revealed the defensive lineman was under investigation for "rape by intoxication" with a different woman after a night of drinking at the Willow Den bar in San Jose.
McDonald has sued that woman who accused him of that, claiming her allegations cast him in a false light. He claimed that the sex was consensual on the night in question and then again several times in the morning.
Prosecutors said that case is still under review.