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Adrian Peterson Trial: What's A 'Legit' Disciplinary Tool?

Adrian Peterson did not enter a plea Wednesday but is expected to plead not guilty. His case has renewed discussion about corporal punishment.
Posted at 4:06 PM, Oct 08, 2014

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson appeared in court on felony child abuse charges Wednesday but did not enter a plea. KHOU reports the prosecution plans to file a motion for the judge's recusal from the case after he reportedly called Peterson's attorney and the prosecutor "media whores."

Peterson is expected to plead not guilty. If convicted, he could face up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 

RUSTY HARDIN VIA KRIV: "This is a really good man that I am incredibly proud to represent. ... This is a case about parenting decisions and whether something unfortunate happened when a parenting decision was made by a man who believes strongly and loves his children very much."

But the odds of Peterson being found innocent or guilty are complicated, and his return to the Vikings could be just as tricky. 

Peterson is accused of hitting his 4-year-old son with a "switch," or a tree branch with the leaves stripped off.

However, the Texas attorney general's office doesn't exactly address switches when describing what objects are or aren't fair game in terms of disciplining children.

According to the attorney general's website: "Belts and hair brushes are accepted by many as legitimate disciplinary 'tools,' and their use is not likely to be considered abusive, as long as injury does not occur. Electrical or phone cords, boards, yardsticks, ropes, shoes, and wires are likely to be considered instruments of abuse."

Houston's CBS radio affiliate released photos of Peterson's son that did appear to show visible marks left from the alleged incident. Still, corporal punishment itself is difficult to define.

In the eyes of the law, it appears child abuse comes down to whether the punishment causes an injury. The Child Welfare Information Gateway says, "Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child."

Peterson is currently on the Vikings "exempt" list, meaning he's still on the roster and getting paid while the legal process plays out, but he's not allowed at the Vikings' facilities or at their games. 

Still, Peterson will likely find his way back to the NFL one way or another. 

Last month, the International Business Times listed other NFL players, such as Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick, who made their way back to the NFL after legal troubles of their own. 

Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a college student in Georgia back in 2010, but charges were later dropped. 

Vick spent nearly two years behind bars for his part in a dogfighting scheme. Both Vick and Roethlisberger were handed suspensions by the NFL. 

NBC's Dan Patrick suggests while Peterson could get cleared legally, it might not be so easy in the court of public opinion. 

DAN PATRICK VIA NBC: "Even if he's found innocent of the charges or he's not charged or they're dropped, does it matter? Those pictures are always going to be there. ... I can't see him back with the Vikings."

The judge Wednesday set a tentative trial date of Dec. 1, though that could change if he does recuse himself.