The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 9, 2012

Sentencing should serve as cautionary tale to fans


Associated Press

Dothan Eagle on BCS title game assault sentencing:

Many will recall a regrettable incident in a New Orleans fast-food restaurant following the BCS title game between LSU and the University of Alabama in January, in which an Alabama fan assaulted an unconscious LSU fan in an obscene manner.

As is often the case now that virtually every person carries a phone with the capability to capture video at the drop of a hat, the incident was photographed as a video clip and uploaded to a popular internet video-sharing site, where it went viral.

Recently, the perpetrator, Brian H. Downing of Smiths Station, was sentenced to two years in jail for the assault.

Whether Downing belongs in jail is debatable, and there are strong arguments on either side of the equation.

On one hand, the simulated sex act Downing performed on an unconscious male should not be seen any differently than if his victim had been female. And had the LSU fan been female, the incident would surely be viewed — and punished — like any other sexual assault.

On the other hand, it was a result of poor judgment exercised in the wake of a competitive sporting event, what many would consider more tasteless shenanigans than intentional criminal activity.

Whether incarcerating Downing is the best strategy is, of course, up to the discretion of the sentencing judge, who obviously believes justice in this matter deserves jail time. And she is probably right.

This should be a cautionary tale to all of us. Behave as if the whole world is watching, because — potentially — it could well be.