WINDERMERE, Fla. – On a chamber-of-commerce, picture-perfect central Florida Sunday Tiger Woods’ options, legal and otherwise, became much more cloudy.
Among the seven satellite trucks and dozens of media types lined up along Conroy-Windermere Road, questions wildly outnumbered answers, particularly after news surfaced that Woods dismissed another request for an interview from the Florida Highway Patrol and the release of the 911 call made by a neighbor the night of Woods’ now-infamous fender-bender.
The emergency call, which lasts a little over 4 minutes, sheds little light on what happened early last Friday morning and for the third time Woods declined to clarify himself with officials. Instead, the world No. 1 enlisted the services of Mark NeJame, a high-profile Orlando criminal defense attorney who is perhaps most famous for representing the parents of Casey Anthony.
“The traffic crash remains under investigation and charges are pending,” was the e-mail response from FHP spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Montes.
There will be a rush to judgment. Always is. Call it guilt by association. If Woods has nothing to hide why not spill the story? Why put a hired gun on retainer? Why give officers the Heisman when a simple explanation will clear all this up?
That, of course, is naïve.
As a rule, Samuel Kohrs, an Orlando-area criminal defense attorney, tells his clients to never give law enforcement officials a statement.
“People think they can talk their way out of things and they can’t,” Kohrs told GolfChannel.com on Sunday. “If they are going to arrest or charge you it will not matter what you say. If they aren’t going to arrest you nothing good can happen from (giving a statement).”
Kohrs has seen all of this before, sort of. Much of the way this has been handled by FHP is standard except for the repeated trips by officers out to Isleworth, the tony gated community where Woods lives.
“I’ve never had a client who said they didn’t want to talk and (officers) kept coming back,” Kohrs said. “It’s kind of weird.”
And getting weirder by the day.
In the same lunar cycle golf again finds itself sullied by the same brush that taints other sports and once again it appears as if the smoking gun is wanting by comparison.
Earlier this month we learned Doug Barron had become the first to violate the PGA Tour’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Baseball has Barry Bonds and a cartoonish-looking mad scientist named Victor Conte. Golf has a 40-year-old journeyman with a medical history that would flummox Dr. House.
Basketball has Kobe Bryant’s well-documented legal woes. Golf has Woods careening off a fire hydrant, a tree and now the mainstream press. Lost amid the rush to judgment is the fact that the only thing Woods appears guilty of right now is an aversion to fire hydrants and an explanation of Friday’s events that’s not sitting well with the assembled media masses.
Either way, both cases make it clear that golf is increasingly being held to a higher standard.
Truth is, at worst Woods could be charged with reckless driving, a misdemeanor, although Kohrs said these type of minor accidents are most often negotiated down to careless driving, a moving violation that carries a fine, a ticket and four points on your driver’s license.
As for the “rest of the story” – you know the one that surfaced in last week’s National Enquirer and suddenly has more shelf life than a pack of beef jerky – the curious public should get used to disappointment.
The man who named his yacht “Privacy” has no plans to divulge to the FHP or anyone else what occurred before his 2:30 a.m. accident, and he shouldn’t have to.
“This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way,” read Woods’ statement on TigerWoods.com Sunday afternoon. “Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible.”
On Saturday, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica wrote that, “If (Woods) can win the U.S. Open on one leg, he can stand up on this one.”
As far as Woods’ wayward driving goes, agreed. When celebrities large and small run afoul the laws of the land there is, to pinch a buzz word, a public option. Had Woods been drinking, which FHP makes clear he wasn’t, or under any influence the public’s curiosity is justifiable. Yet given the current state of the FHP investigation that verdict is days, if not weeks, away.
As for Woods’ personal life, that is between the world No. 1, his wife, Elin, and perhaps a few CEOs (Nike, Gatorade and AT&T come to mind) who are financially vested in one of the world’s most lucrative images. Not Lupica or anyone else.
Note: Golf Channel will air a Golf Central Special on Tiger Woods Monday at 7 p.m. ET, where golf insiders sit down and discuss everything regarding the Tiger Woods car-crash saga.
Photos from the crash
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