Innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in the courtroom.
Innocent unless “credible evidence” is uncovered in the NFL.
Even if Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker’s criminal charges — four counts of armed robbery with a firearm and four counts of aggravated assault — are reduced or dismissed in Florida, he still could face a fine or suspension from the NFL because there is a lower threshold to be found in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement ratified in March, a mutually agreed-upon disciplinary officer will conduct evidentiary hearings and rule. There is no perfect precedent for predicting Baker’s outcome, especially considering differences among states’ legal systems and the Giants’ heavy investment in their 2019 first-round pick.
The key unresolved question: Is the affidavit “credible”? It alleges Baker told an unidentified masked man to shoot a fellow partygoer (no shots fired) and combined with two others (including Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar) to steal $12,000 in cash and $61,000 in watches. It also states he previously lost $70,000 gambling.
Four people recanted accusations against Dunbar before hiring lawyers. Baker’s lawyer, Patrick Patel, says he is gathering video evidence to prove the criminal case is meritless. As for an NFL suspension?
“He completely denies this gambling they’re talking about and completely denies robbing anybody,” Patel told The Post. “Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? Absolutely. But I don’t think even the CBA hands out penalties for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If he’s wrongly accused, does that say he violated the CBA? No.”
Per the Personal Conduct Policy, “it is not simply enough to avoid being found guilty of a crime.” He can be punished “if the credible evidence establishes that he engaged in conduct prohibited.”
In contractual disputes covered by the CBA, a “preponderance of the evidence” — a higher standard borrowed from civil court — is required. “Credible evidence” can be outweighed by other evidence and still result in suspension, which is Baker’s cause for concern.
“We thank the NFL 100 percent for not rushing in and jumping to conclusions, thank the Giants for not rushing to judgment,” Patel said. “We want to address it with the NFL, and we want to show Baker is back.”
Baker, who entered pleas of not guilty on all eight charges on Tuesday, and Dunbar are the first active players known to be charged with armed robbery since 2000, according to a USA Today database of NFL arrests.
The Ravens’ Marl on Humphrey’s 2018 robbery charge was dismissed, and he was not punished by the NFL.
Brandon Ivory was charged with first-degree burglary in 2015 and immediately released by the Texans.
Darius Philon was charged with aggravated assault involving a deadly weapon last August and immediately released by the Cardinals. In 2017, aggravated assault charges against the Jets’ Darrelle Revis and the Cowboys’ Damien Wilson were dismissed. Both played on without NFL suspension.
In 2019, the Giants placed Kam Moore on the paid commissioner’s exempt list when he was arrested in July on a domestic-violence aggravated assault charge. Moore was cut after missing all of training camp and hasn’t returned to the NFL even after a grand jury dismissed the charge in October.
Florida has 30 days to decide whether to proceed with or drop Baker’s case. The NFL conducts its own investigation in cooperation with law enforcement. There is no time limit, so the complexities of a particular case could delay final decision by months or run into the following season.
Baker’s case is a test for the new CBA: Commissioner Roger Goodell is no longer judge, jury and executioner, but he will hear all appeals. So Goodell maintains final say on suspension length. “Acceptance of responsibility and cooperation, engagement with clinical resources and voluntary restitution” are mitigating factors, per the CBA.
Baker, 22, has had a Florida permit to legally carry a gun in public for more than a year, a source told The Post. A player cannot be punished separately by the team and the league.
— Additional reporting by Paul Schwartz