And so Reuben Foster will be a 49er still – unless the district attorney for Santa Clara County has a lot more unpleasant evidence than either Foster, his accuser, or the 49ers know.
In the wake of Wednesday’s recantation by the woman who originally claimed that Foster beat her in February – a recantation bolstered by her lawyer claiming that there was video of a fight with another woman that the victim now claims was the cause of her injuries – Foster’s employment prospects have dramatically changed for the better.
Not his absolute guilt or innocence. He either beat the woman or he didn’t. This is about his convictability, and that is the standard, if you can call it that, that the 49ers’ hierarchy wants to apply in this case, because it is the highest bar available to them.
Therein lies the flow and direction of this particular undercurrent. A recanting victim diminishes the chances of a conviction, and even though the district attorney’s office claims it will press ahead with a trial with or without her cooperation, the shadow of doubt lengthens in such cases.
And the 49ers through general manager/spokesman John Lynch have made it clear they want the shadow of doubt to run 120 yards. They believe Foster’s version of events because they want to believe Foster. They have had a desired result from the start here, and have applied the most liberal talent/tolerance scale they can in choosing their path.
So questions remain, most of which may never be resolved. Is there video and what is its quality? Does evidence of one fight necessarily preclude the possibility that Foster beat her as well? Why the delay between the time she filed her complaint and her assertion that it was false? Why does the timing – one day before the NFL Draft – seem so hinky?
And finally, is Foster really being framed here, and should/will the woman be punished if that is found to be the case?
We probably will never know that last one, because the standard that will be applied by nearly everyone with an interest will ultimately not be “did he do it” but “will he be convicted of it.” Lynch said that very thing in his last presser on the subject, while saying also, “if he did this, he will no longer be a 49er.” Those are clearly two different standards, because between innocence and guilt stands “not guilty,” which is the equivalent of “not proven.” We would expect the 49ers to do as they have done and choose the highest bar, and then hope it goes away of its own accord.
After all, there has never been a standard by which these things are adjudicated. Innocent-until-proven-guilty has always been superseded by let-the-PR-decide, just as punish-the-guilty has been mitigated by how-important-is-the-defendant-to-the-business. Powerful defendants can hire mighty lawyers and write powerful checks and intimidate victims, and women have found that pressing claims is often a more difficult ordeal than the original incident. And in a few cases (not as many as the men-are-victims-too lobby would have you believe, but some), the plaintiff ought to be the defendant.
So what we know now is very little. What we may learn Monday is that the state either thinks it has an overwhelming case without the victim or will find it too unlikely that it can win at trial. That is the standard being applied to Reuben Foster now, in a murky case that just got murkier.