Luke Heimlich and Relitigating the Past

The 2018 Draft is unusual. Not in terms of talent, mind you. No, the 2018 Draft is unusual because we have a genuinely unprecedented situation: a potential high-round draft pick with perhaps the most serious baggage a person can possibly have. From THE BOARD, courtesy of Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel:

**Luke Heimlich

Heimlich is a Level 1 sex offender in Oregon… Heimlich was projected to go in round two last year, when he was a junior. Shortly before the draft, The Oregonian reported court documents that showed Heimlich plead guilty to sexually assaulting his niece. Court records showed the victim reported multiple incidents of molestation between 2009 and 2011, when Heimlich was 14-15 years old and the victim was 4-6. He plead guilty to one count which included a handwritten admission and the other count was dismissed as part of a plea bargain.

After this information surface[d], Heimlich spent the rest of the spring of 2017 away from Oregon State and went undrafted. He returned for his senior season and has pitched well while, amid intermediate media attention, he and his family (except for the immediate family of the victim) denied he committed the crime and say Heimlich plead guilty so the legal proceedings would end more quickly. This situation is abnormal, there’s no precedent for it and it’s unclear why/how a team would go about clearing Heimlich for employment, though ownership would certainly have to be involved.

Let’s take a look at what this means.

Luke Heimlich is a left-handed pitcher at Oregon State University and one of the top college arms in the country. The crime in question occurred in Washington State, not Oregon. OSU — and the national media — became aware of it when he failed to comply with Oregon’s requirements that he check-in and annually report to the state’s sex offender registry. It’s worth noting that, according to at least one report, it was a mistake by law enforcement, rather than by Heimlich, which caused the failed check-in. In any event, Heimlich is listed on the sex offender registries of two states: Washington and Oregon. 

Oregon classifies sex offenders based on what are called “notification levels,” based on a projected likelihood of recidivism. Heimlich, as a Level 1 sex offender, is considered the lowest likelihood to reoffend and therefore the lowest risk to the community. It’s also worth noting that Heimlich’s record has now been expunged; he completed his sentence and time as a registered sex offender and, per the agreement and because Heimlich committed the crime while a juvenile, it was removed from his record. That does not mean he was found, or is now, innocent; expungement is more properly considered sealing of the court file so it can’t be accessed later. Legally, Heimlich still committed the crime, and it’s still on his criminal record; it just now won’t be publicly available.

Because it is relevant, this is the accusation against Heimlich, via Sports Illustrated:

According to the document, which alleged that Heimlich committed two counts of “child molestation in the first degree,” the girl told investigators that Heimlich brought her to the floor in the middle of his bedroom, “pulled down her underwear and with his hand he touched her private part… She said that she told him to stop, but he wouldn’t.” The girl also said that “Uncle Luke”… “touched her on both the inside and outside of the spot she uses to go to the bathroom. She said that it hurt her… She said that the first time the respondent touched her she was four years old and that she was six years old the last time he did this.”

Heimlich did plead guilty to it. But he didn’t just plead guilty — he also wrote and signed a formal confession as part of the plea deal. Heimlich said he did so to avoid the trial, and added this:

I had several conversations with my mom, with my dad, and ultimately it came down to: We thought that this was going to be the best route for me and my family, knowing that it was basically a he-said/she-said. In the court of law we didn’t really think I stood a fair chance; that was the advice we had been given. So we thought that pleading guilty was going to give me the best chance at a normal life, and our family a best chance at reconnecting and being able to just kind of move past this whole event.

On the other hand, the victim’s mother was steadfast in Heimlich’s guilt, per the New York Times:

The girl’s mother, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of the victim, said her daughter’s account is the truth. “There is no way he didn’t do it,” she said in an interview with The Times in which she described her daughter’s descriptions of abuse as “very specific.”

Now, I obviously wasn’t present, and so I can’t tell you what happened. However, as a matter of law, Heimlich is guilty. When you plead guilty to a crime, you are waiving the requirement that the government prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. You also waive your right to appeal the conviction (with exceptions that probably don’t apply here). The plea he signed probably looked a lot like this one.

And Heimlich’s explanation is, while not necessarily incredible, certainly incomplete from a legal standpoint. If Heimlich didn’t want to plead guilty, he might have been able to plead “nolo contendere” or “no contest,” which is a special kind of plea that concedes the government has sufficient evidence to convict you while maintaining your innocence. If that wasn’t offered as part of a plea deal — and it’s certainly possible it wasn’t — Heimlich’s lawyer also could have tried what’s called an Alford plea, a close relative of no contest pleas wherein the defendant pleads guilty without admitting guilt, thus preserving the ability to assert innocence later. Again, that may not have been on the table for a variety of reasons. (In case you’re wondering what rules governing Washington state juvenile proceedings, you can find them here. And Washington’s Court Rule governing pleas, 4.2(d), also says this:

(d)       Voluntariness.  The court shall not accept a plea of guilty, without first determining that it is made voluntarily, competently and with an understanding of the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea.  The court shall not enter a judgment upon a plea of guilty unless it is satisfied that there is a factual basis for the plea.

So, in order to accept the plea, a judge had to find that there was a factual basis for it. In theory, at least, that is to ensure that innocent people don’t plead guilty to crimes. Now, to be clear: wrongful guilty pleas can and do happen, and more often than you might think, for a whole variety of reasons. So it is not out of the realm of possibility that Heimlich is, in fact, innocent of the charges to which he pleaded guilty.

That being said, Heimlich did plead guilty. As a matter of law, he’s guilty. As a matter of fact, there’s a really good chance he’s guilty, because if he pleaded guilty based on the evidence against him, that means he (or his lawyer) believed the state had overwhelming evidence that he committed the crime, or at least enough evidence to make a guilty verdict probable. So this is not, contrary to how some have portrayed it, a “he said, she said” debate any longer. The case is over, and Heimlich accepted his guilt. He cannot now relitigate that decision for the sake of his baseball career.

We hoped you liked reading Luke Heimlich and Relitigating the Past by Sheryl Ring!

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Sheryl Ring is a litigation attorney and General Counsel at Open Communities, a non-profit legal aid agency in the Chicago suburbs. You can reach her on twitter at @Ring_Sheryl. The opinions expressed here are solely the author's. This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

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ItsPoPtime
Member
ItsPoPtime

As someone close to this. It didn’t happen….that’s all I’ll say

Psychic... Powerless...
Member
Member
Psychic... Powerless...

Then why bother saying anything?

Mason
Member
Mason

Noted. Also noted is the testimony of the victim and the victim’s mother. With those testimonies paired with the guilty plea, I am going to assume guilt. Pretty gross that he’s denying it, as it eliminates the very soft idea that he has rehabilitated back to normal society.

FanTards
Member
FanTards

“Pretty gross that he’s denying it, as it eliminates the very soft idea that he has rehabilitated back to normal society.”

MLB and the team that employees Heimlich must stand up and state that they believe that little girl is a liar. There is no grey area. Heimlich removed the grey area. Is Rob Manfred going to accuse that little girl and her mother of being a liar?

jay_stellmach
Member
Member
jay_stellmach

It happened when the girl was 4-6 years old. Do you know any 4-6 year-olds? I am not saying she was lying, or even that I think he didn’t do it (I have no idea, of course); but it is entirely possible that she thought it happened, and still thinks it happened, and that it actually didn’t happen. Aside from that, Manfred (or any team) doesn’t have to say anything like that; all they have to do is say that Heimlich served his time, etc.

olethros
Member
olethros

I know several 4-6 year olds. This is not the sort of thing they make up, and certainly not in the sort of detail described above.

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

Well, your credentials are certainly impeccable! Several of them – you don’t say!

olethros
Member
olethros

I have two of my own, four nieces and nephews in that range, 10 more who have aged out of that range, and the majority of my friends have at least one kid in that range right now.

I’ll let the peanut gallery decide which is more likely – that a middle aged father spends a lot of time around kids in that age range, or some random yahoo claims to have intimate knowledge of a specific criminal case.

Dave T
Member
Member
Dave T

@olethros:

I’m inclined to believe that Heimlich committed this crime because of his guilty plea, and believing that he committed this crime is therefore my default position until I see a whole lot of evidence saying that’s not the case.

To claim that false testimony of this nature can’t be elicited from 4-6 year olds is to deny documented history, however. Google some historical allegations of daycare abuse such as the McMartin Preschool case and Fran and Dan Keller. Each of those two also featured testimony of ritual abuse with wildly bizarre elements (e.g., secret tunnels under a daycare building, plane trips to and from Mexico in the time between when a child was left in the morning and picked up in the afternoon).

And I’m very specific in using the language of “false testimony elicited” from children for a reason. It’s not about children “making up” this sort of detail. It’s about questioners, including parents, unfortunately (and maybe unintentionally) pushing children toward serious allegations.

WoundedSprinter
Member
Member
WoundedSprinter

I think most of us know girls who are between the ages of four and six, yes.
You asked that specific question.
You don’t seem to be worried about the evidential collection that police, prosecutors, counsellors, school teachers and indeed the family bring to the table.
It would be vaguely pleasant if you acknowledged at least that possibility. Which in this case appears to be “I pleaded guilty after trying to talk my way out of it with my parents.”

MonkeyEpoxy
Member
Member
MonkeyEpoxy

holy shit are you a real person

CliffH
Member
CliffH

I agree he is probably guilty. But, I’m not sure how meaningful it is to call a 5 year old “a liar”. A five year old could get confused about what is real/true.

bcole2727
Member
bcole2727

The problem with this statement is that Rob Manfred has no jurisdiction here. This happened while the player was in not in the players union or covered under the CBA, and he is not bound by the league’s Personal Conduct Policy for this time period. So Manfred can’t do anything about it. Its not up to him.

The teams can, however, there is a difference between not believing an alleged victim and not punishing an alleged perpetrator, which a lot of people don’t seem to understand. The law is not “pick which one you believe and there is nothing in between.” The middle ground consists of “we’re not calling the victim a liar, we’re suggesting that we don’t have enough facts to punish the perpetrator.” That is not close to calling the victim a liar.

If you’d like to argue that the guilty plea overwhelms any question about his guilt and makes him legally guilty that is certainly a reasonable argument. But to suggest there could not be an in-between area in most other sets of facts like this is ignorant. And regardless, even he admits it outright, because he was not represented by the CBA when the acts were to have committed, Manfred cannot do anything at all in the situation.

de Carabas
Member
Member
de Carabas

Yeah, you know what? I think I’m going to have to go ahead and side with the victim on this one, mmm’kay?

Considering how people tend to view child molesters, I really doubt that he and his family opted to plead guilty just based on “he said/she said.”

rlwhite
Member
rlwhite

As someone familiar with a similar situation, I can tell you that families do come to the conclusion that a guilty plea is best because it is based on he said / she said and society’s repugnance for child molesters is so strong that juries won’t believe the accused.

Maggie25
Member
Member
Maggie25

This is such a bad comment. 1) There is literally no reason to believe you are close to it. 2) Even if you are, how could you possibly know it didn’t happen unless you have proof that the allegations were false or you were there?

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

This is going to go over well!

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh

said Heimlich’s agent…

kbn
Member
kbn

Except the false accusation rate on sexual assault is incredibly low (around 3% if I recall). That doesn’t mean it’s a slam-dunk, but seriously. Especially given that we’re talking about the testimony of a six year old making very specific and very graphic accusations, it’s nearly inconceivable that Heimlich is innocent. I’m sorry, but that’s just the reality of the situation.

Does that mean I believe he is unredeemable as a human being? Not at all (though his current protestations aren’t doing him any favors), but it DOES mean I believe he is guilty both in the eyes of the court and in the court of factuality, and he deserves to be viewed as such. He made an incredibly offensive, incredibly short-sighted, incredibly foolish decision (apparently several times over several years). It sucks that this decision is going to affect his life in a profound way, but that’s the reality he chose.

Let’s also remember the vastly more profound impact his actions have had on his victim. Even if she has managed to block out specific memories of the incidents, the psychological trauma is still there and will almost certainly have a significant effect on her future relationships and even the way she treats children in the future. The impact of Heimlich’s puerile abuse will very likely extend decades and even generations into the future.

This is why society views child molestation with such a severe eye. I wish it viewed all sexual assault through the same lens.