TEXAS — NFL running back Adrian Peterson turned himself in to authorities in Texas early Saturday on a felony charge of child abuse, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said.
He’s accused of using a switch to discipline his son, according to his attorney.
Shortly after, Peterson was freed on a $15,000 bail, authorities said.
Soon after the news broke, the Vikings released a statement saying they have deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game.
News of his indictment casts another shadow over the NFL, which is reeling from the fallout over its reaction to recent domestic violence incidents, including then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice allegedly punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in a casino elevator. (The two are now married.)
League officials have been heavily criticized for their actions in that case, including the initial two-game suspension given to Rice prior to surveillance video that emerged showing him delivering Palmer a knockout blow.
Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant told reporters Saturday that Peterson was indicted Thursday on a felony charge of injury to a child. The grand jury reviewed evidence over a period of weeks.
“The mental state that’s reflected in the indictment is that he did so with criminal negligence or recklessly,” Grant said.
The crime is punishable by up to 2 years in a state jail and a $1,000 fine.
“The Montgomery County District Attorney’s officer will take this charge extremely seriously and we look forward to presenting this case to a jury at the appropriate time,” Grant said.
In Texas, Grant said, “reasonable discipline” is a defense to a charge of injury to a child.
“Obviously parents are entitled to discipline their children as they see fit, except for when that discipline exceeds what the community would say is reasonable,” he said. “And so, a grand jury, having indicted this case, looked at the injuries that were inflicted upon this child and determined that that discipline was not reasonable.”
Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said the “charged conduct involves using a switch to spank his son” — explaining that his client did so while doling out discipline much like “he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas.”
“Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury,” Hardin said, describing Peterson as a loving father.
Peterson “will continue to insist on his innocence of any intended wrongdoing,” the lawyer said.
Hardin said his client has “cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours.”
“Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning,” the lawyer said.
According to Texas law, a person can be convicted of injury to a child if they are proven to have caused bodily or mental injury “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence” or causing such harm by omission.
The alleged abuse took place in Montgomery County, which is north of Houston.
The 29-year-old Peterson grew up in Palestine, Texas, which is 150 miles north of Houston and 100 miles southeast of Dallas.
A running back for the Vikings since 2007, Peterson rushed for 75 yards in his team’s season-opening 34-6 rout of the St. Louis Rams.
Last year, Peterson’s other son died after allegedly being abused by another man.
Authorities in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, found the 2-year-old boy unresponsive, and later determined he’d suffered injuries to his head consistent with abuse.