by Christian Duque
Fitness industry icon Kris Gethin was arrested in a gym altercation according to a news report by Xavier Wills of Desktop Bodybuilding. Although other outlets seem to have reported on the incident using secondary sources, Wills contacted the fitness industry icon directly and received direct information, according to the report. Per the story at DB, Kris punched a man who approached him while doing supersets.
From the report, the man got into Gethin’s personal space and told him he couldn’t do supersets. The man may or may not have been yelling. At this point, per Wills who spoke to Gethin, Gethin struck the man “at 20-30% his strength.” Wills also states that Gethin stated that in hindsight maybe he should have pushed the man away instead of punching him. It does not appear that the man tried to punch Gethin and/or landed any strikes. The report continues that the police were called, Kris was arrested (suggesting the other man was not), and that the unknown man was later banned from the gym in question. Further, Wills states that the man in question was known to Gethin’s wife and his videographer (from a separate shoot) as someone who had been bothering them – this information per the news report was told to Gethin after the altercation, which is significant. The DB report also included that Gethin has a background in either Muay Thai or MMA. Finally, Wills reported that the alleged victim will be filing a lawsuit against Gethin and that Gethin plans to countersue.
I’d like to share my legal analysis below.
If I were Kris Gethin’s attorney I would never have advised him to speak to the press. I don’t know if Wills recorded the conversation or took notes, but provided what he reported was a verbatim account from Gethin’s recollection, we can see that he was not in fear of an imminent battery. If he was not in fear of an imminent battery, he’s not justified by using force. He never took a step back, never contacted gym management, and never tried to diffuse the situation. It’s not his obligation to calm the man down; however, if he was not struck first and he also didn’t have the fear of imminent battery, then he has no right to put hands on the man. This is likely why he was arrested and the man was not. If the man had threatened a battery and then stepped forward – even without striking Gethin – it may have been ruled as mutual combat where both get arrested and/or neither get arrested.
The fact that Gethin added that he only used “20-30% of his strength” and the report suggests he has a background in MMA or Muay Thai means that he’s a professionally-trained fighter and that makes any fear he could have of being attacked by big-talker substantially diminished. A jury will look at him as a muscular guy with a fighting background, ripped to shreds, tatted up and with the whole gym taking his side. Gethin might win the hearts and minds of the gym-goers but he’s more than likely to get the scorn of average everyday people determining his share of the blame. If it’s a bench trial he’ll have even less of a chance to convince the trier of fact. Then again, he might get that one in a million judge with a bodybuilding background. I think there’s a better chance of me regrowing my hair though.
The fact the man was bothering his wife and another videographer who worked with Gethin on another project could have served as a mitigating factor even if he had used unjustified force. The Desktop report clearly states that this information was made known to Kris after the fact. Unless Kris is clairvoyant then this information does absolutely nothing to help his case.
Why on Earth Kris would ever say he only used 20-30% of his strength is beyond me. What that says to me is that Kris didn’t just punch this man out of some kind of reflexive type reaction. He put thought into the striking power. Why would he strike someone with potentially less than a quarter of his strength if he was truly in fear of a battery? Why would he then tell a news outlet that maybe he should have pushed the man away?
It should also be noted that if the police arrested Gethin and not the other man that that will undoubtedly be introduced as evidence in a civil trial where the burden of proof is substantially lower than the criminal level. If Gethin is convicted or pleads it out, that too will be introduced as evidence, along with the police reports. I don’t care if every gym-goer lines up and swears up and down in depositions and court proceedings, the police report and any pleas/convictions will far outweigh those statements. Furthermore, gym-goers are more likely to give one story to police officers in a crowded gym where everyone seemingly sides with the jacked fitness icon than under oath in a courtroom setting with the very serious repercussions that await should anyone perjure themselves. The same applies for a deposition.
Another reason why Kris’s decision to speak to the press may come back to haunt him is now the man may feel the desire to seek out a personal injury attorney. If he links up with an ambulance chaser he’s probably going to get sent for a number of medical examinations. Whether he’s deemed injured or not, these examinations can get pretty costly and fast. If he’s not physically injured perhaps he’ll suddenly come down with some bizarre PTSD-like condition and if they can milk it enough, they might employ an expert witness. If the man was struck in the face or anywhere in the head, he might be sent for a CT scan and/or referred to any number of neuro-specialists. If he took any body shots he might be sent for X-rays (which are dirt cheap compared to CT Scans and MRI’s).
The world of personal injury is such that attorneys work off a contingency fee where they can earn anywhere from 33 ⅓ to as much 45%. That means if they lose, they take a hit on everything and the client pays nothing. But they’re not going to spend all that money unless they feel they’ll prevail. Typically personal injury attorneys don’t take cases that involve intentional torts (e.g. battery, assault), but if the aggressor has deep enough pockets, they’ll jump all over it. And if the aggressor is freely incriminating himself with statements to the media, it’s cake.
Interestingly, per the Desktop report Gethin plans to countersue. That should be interesting. What would the cause of action be? If the man didn’t try to punch him, didn’t punch him, and basically took a beating, what’s the harm to Kris? You can’t sue someone if you haven’t been harmed. The whole idea of filing a lawsuit for damages is to make the plaintiff whole again. The man also hasn’t gone to the press that I’m aware of, but even if he did, what’s the cause of action? What harm did Gethin suffer at the hands or because of the alleged victim? And if he wants to sue the man because he was arrested, then he has the wrong defendant. Unless the man put him under citizen’s arrest and the officers cuffed him, then his case would be against the police department and/or the city (which both have sovereign immunity).
For whatever it’s worth, anyone who has been arrested and is presently facing criminal charges SHOULD NOT be speaking to the media. Kris’s countersuit will likely not survive the summary judgment phase and any attorney who files any of the claims I could think of thus far would be in violation of Rule 3.1. Then again, maybe there’s a harm Kris suffered that I’m unaware of.
My guess is that Kris will plead-out on the charge he was arrested for and will settle out of court with the man he struck. Or he could spend a lot of money and time and more than likely face a conviction and a costly final judgment that may very well include punitive damages. I’m curious what the outcome will be. Perhaps I’ll pen another article when it’s all said and done. Thanks for reading.