Adrian Peterson avoids jail time in child abuse case

Eric Prisbell and Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY Sports
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Adrian Peterson, with his wife, Ashley Brown Peterson, arrive at the courthouse where Peterson avoided jail time in a plea deal.

CONROE, Texas --- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson pleaded no contest Tuesday to a reduced charge of misdemeanor reckless assault as part of plea deal with prosecutors to resolve his felony child abuse case.

As part of the deal, Peterson will avoid jail time and instead be ordered to pay a $4,000 fine, court costs and 80 hours of community service.

"I truly regret this incident," Peterson said outside the courthouse. "I stand here and take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than any one of you could even imagine. I am looking forward to and I am anxious to continue my relationship with my child.

"I am just glad this is over. I can put this behind me and me and my family can begin to move forward."

A big question now is when Peterson will return to the field for the Vikings. Peterson, 29, had missed eight games with pay while the case was pending. On Sept. 17, the team said it placed him on the exempt/commissioner's permission list, which required the former NFL MVP to remain away from all team activities.

Commissioner Roger Goodell must first rule on Peterson's status, reinstating him or subjecting Peterson to discipline.

"We would review the matter, including the court record, and the commissioner would make a determination," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said before the ruling. "We cannot provide a timetable."

When asked when Peterson will return to the field, his attorney, Rusty Hardin, said, "All of that is in the hands of the NFL."

After a grand jury indicted Peterson in September, the Vikings said he would not play at least until his legal proceedings were resolved. The plea deal paves the way for his return and avoids the risk of going to trial and facing a sentence of up to two years in jail.

For prosecutors, a plea deal helps them avoid the risk of Peterson being acquitted in a jury trial, where Hardin is considered a powerful persuader.

"On behalf of the mom in Minnesota, this is... consistent with what she wanted," Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said after the ruling.

The deal includes a two-year deferred adjudication, a form of probation. If he completes the terms of his two-year deal, he would not have a conviction on his record, Ligon said. Peterson also will be subject to random drug testing during the two-year period.

Of Peterson's 80 hours of community service, he will spend 40 hours producing public service announcements.

The Vikings declined to talk about his possible return Tuesday prior to Peterson's court hearing Tuesday.

"At the appropriate time, we'll make comments on Adrian," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.

Peterson, 29, had stood accused of injuring his 4-year-old son in May after disciplining him with a tree branch or "switch." Peterson said the injuries were unintentional and that he was imposing the same kind of discipline that had been imposed on him as a boy growing up in Texas.

Bill Fleishman, a resident of Houston, said he had his own court appearance here this morning. When he left, he went home, got a football and arrived back at the courthouse for the conclusion of Peterson's case. He proudly displayed the football that Peterson signed after the running back made a statement to the media.

"I didn't think he was going to go to jail," Fleishman said. "I think he got the same thing anyone else would have if he had been a normal person. ... Hopefully we will all see him back on the football field, because the guy can play."

Peterson posted $15,000 bail on Sept. 12.

The case included other drama: Ligon last month sent a motion to the 9th District Court to revoke Peterson's bond, accusing him of using marijuana while out on bond. Peterson allegedly told a worker conducting his court-ordered urinalysis exam that he "smoked a little weed." The plea deal makes that issue go away.

Prosecutors also had tried to get Judge Kelly Case removed from the Peterson proceedings, claiming Case was biased against their office. Ligon said that Case had referred to him as a "media whore." The motion to recuse Case was denied.

Contributing: Nancy Armour

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