The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that surveillance video showing Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon punching a woman named Amelia Molitor at an off-campus sandwich shop in July 2014 is a matter of public record and must be released.
The Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters had sued police in Norman, Okla., the city of Norman and the Cleveland County district attorney for the right to obtain the video, which was shown to a few dozen reporters in October 2014 but never released. The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel, one of the reporters to view the video, detailed its contents in July.
Mixon, who had turned 18 the day before, walked into Pickleman’s. Molitor told police Mixon, whom she did not know, directed a homosexual slur at her friend. Molitor shoved Mixon, who lunged back with a closed fist at his side. Molitor slapped at Mixon, who then hit her with a right hook that knocked Molitor off her feet. Her head slammed into a table as she fell to the ground. She suffered fractures in her jaw, cheekbone and other bones in her face.
Under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, the state’s law-enforcement agencies are required to release records about the facts and cause of an arrest, but a Cleveland County District Court judge ruled in 2015 that the video did not depict “an arrest or cause of arrest,” and thus local officials could not be compelled to release the tape. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals upheld the judge’s ruling, “saying Mixon could not be considered under arrest since he voluntarily appeared in court to answer to the charge,” the Oklahoman’s Norman Clay writes.
But the state Supreme Court rejected that argument in ordering the release of the video, ruling that Mixon was indeed placed under arrest because the Cleveland County sheriff’s office ordered him held until he could post bail.
Mixon eventually agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in which he received a year’s probation, was required to complete 100 hours of community service and underwent cognitive behavior counseling, and Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops suspended Mixon from football-related activities for the entire 2014 season, his first in Norman. He also was sued by Molitor in federal court for negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, though a judge threw out the first two claims last month. The remaining emotional-distress claim remains the subject of litigation.
Mixon returned to the field in 2015 and since has been one of the nation’s best running backs. He scored 11 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2015 and this year rushed for 1,183 yards and eight scores, adding 32 receptions for 449 yards and five touchdowns as the Sooners won the Big 12 title. They play Auburn in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
After that, Mixon has the option of entering the NFL draft and is seen as a definite pro prospect, though he has yet to announce his intentions. He will be placed in a kind of unofficial probation once he does enter the league, however. Although the NFL does not have a policy that punishes rookies charged with violent or threatening conduct while in college, a league spokesman said in May that such a rookie could be considered a repeat offender if he is involved in another, similar incident.
The release of the videotape almost certainly will affect Mixon’s decision. He could decide to stay in school and hope that another year of distance from the incident will make teams more inclined to spend an early pick on him. Or he could roll the dice and hope that his previously expressed contrition over the incident is enough to overcome the sight of him punching a woman, knowing full well that former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has yet to receive a second chance after video of him punching his then-fiancee came to light. Mixon, who is black, issued a public apology to Molitor in November, and though he claimed in the apology that racial slurs were hurled at him before he threw the punch, he did not say the insults came from Molitor, who is white.
The Supreme Court ruling on the video is not yet final, so the footage will not be released immediately. The losing side now has 20 days to request a rehearing, according to the Oklahoman. If a rehearing is not requested, it could be released as early as Dec. 27. If the rehearing is requested, the video might not surface until after Oklahoma’s season is over.