Zach Mettenberger's Cautionary Tale of Actions and Consequences, Legal and Otherwise

This is no longer news to anyone (thanks to DawgShark, inter alia), but, what with this being a Georgia Bulldogs sports weblog and all, it bears repeating that the other shoe has dropped regarding the dismissal of Zach Mettenberger. In addition to the standard underage drinking and fake ID charges we knew about from the outset, Mettenberger "grabb[ed] the breasts and touch[ed] the buttocks of the victim," ultimately resulting in a guilty plea to two counts of sexual battery. (The quotation, incidentally, is from the district attorney of the Southern Judicial Circuit. Yes, in Georgia, we have district attorneys serving in judicial circuits before superior courts. Who says we don't embrace diversity around these parts?)

The legal consequences for the former Georgia quarterback were not especially severe. Once again, in the words of the DA (by which I mean "district attorney," not the kind of DA Zach Mettenberger evidently acted like in the bar on the evening in question):

[Mettenberger] was sentenced to two concurrent 12-month periods of probation under the First Offender act, is to pay $35 per month for a probation supervision fee, pay a fine of $1,000 on each count, must consent to searches of his person, vehicle and premises at any time by any law enforcement officer without a search warrant and without probable cause and must not object to any item seized during any such search from being admitted into evidence in any court proceeding, must not drink any alcoholic beverage, nor be at any place where alcoholic beverages are sold, is banished from the city of Valdosta and must have no contact, direct or indirect, with the victim in the case.

Many of the items on that laundry list fall largely under the heading of "general conditions of probation"; anyone who's put on probation is subject to such limitations. Moreover, Mettenberger's first offender status will enable him to walk away from this without a conviction on his record if he satisfactorily completes his probation. (This, it would seem, is a suitable place to insert my usual disclaimer: I am not a criminal defense attorney, so don't quote me on any of this, and feel free to correct me if you know better through professional expertise or personal experience.)

Basically, the former Bulldog can pay two grand and change, steer clear of bars and beer, stay away from the woman from the bar (who undoubtedly wants nothing more to do with him, in any case), and generally keep his nose clean for a couple of years, then he can get on with his life without long-term consequences as dire as those encountered in the average Drive-By Truckers song.

The lasting penalty arising from all of this is apt to flow from the fact that I have to keep using the word "former" in describing Zach Mettenberger's relationship to the Georgia football team. Mark Richt did the only responsible thing he could do here---he levied the mandatory minimum one-game suspension immediately, withheld final judgment on the ultimate punishment while an investigation was pending, and acted swiftly and appropriately in dismissing the quarterback when all the facts were known---and there is no defending Mettenberger's actions. Evidently, it was a bad weekend in the Peach State where barroom decisionmaking by quarterbacks with last names ending in "-berger" was concerned.

Mark Richt made the only decision he could under the circumstances, and Zach Mettenberger has learned a difficult lesson about being an adult and accepting the consequences of his actions. The legal system likely has imposed the least of the penalties the young man will suffer; with a modicum of good judgment, Mettenberger will put this behind him in two years. Where his education, his career, and his reputation are concerned, though, he has squandered a golden opportunity most young men his age would have liked to have had before them. There is no part of this entire episode that is anything other than regrettable.

Go 'Dawgs!

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