Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jail Time for Coach Shredder?

New University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez left his old job at the University of West Virginia under not such great terms. Now it is getting ugly.

The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette reported that, according to an unspecified source, the coach “destroyed all or most of the paperwork files relating to every player on the current [University of West Virginia] Mountaineer roster and virtually all of the activities conducted by the programs over the past seven years."

The Detroit Free Press reported today:

Any shredding and missing files, eventually, could be a legal issue. JJ Prescott, an assistant professor at the U-M Law School specializing in employment law, said "the key question is likely to be who owned the files -- Rodriguez or the university?"

"Rodriguez is free to destroy his own property," Prescott wrote in a [sic] e-mail. "But, if the university owned the files, then Rodriguez might face criminal liability for destruction of property, possibly even if he mistakenly believed the files were his to (destroy)."

This struck me as odd. My first thought is that I can imagine there could be civil liability for such a mistake (if, in fact, it was mistake), but criminal liability seems like a tough one (again, if it were actually a mistake).

If I recall correctly from my first-year criminal law professor (and if I am wrong, it is my fault, not his) and the Model Penal Code, most criminal acts require scienter (or knowledge) that one is committing a criminal act. But, as a trusted colleague noted, some state laws, especially with regard to state records and education, can be quite broad. I hope to check out West Virginia law to see what is there, but in the meantime, any thoughts?

1 comment:

Marie T. Reilly said...

I don't think we've got the full story on this yet. Rodriguez is being fed through a metaphorical paper shredder in the press in Morgantown. Plus, he's got a $4 million problem that makes this missing document thing look like a paper cut.

Thanks for the legal angle Josh. Sadly, I can't offer any insight. I didn't pay much attention in Criminal Law -- I couldn't get over the cannibal people in the boat.