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ROBIN ABCARIAN

Jeez, He Was Only Protecting Her From Herself

February 25, 1996|ROBIN ABCARIAN

Down in Texas, the government is poking its long nose into family business.

As usual.

This time, it's sniffing around the private lives of star NFL quarterback Warren Moon and his loyal wife, Felicia, married 15 years and the parents of four children.

As you might imagine, the whole Moon family has been traumatized by the decision of prosecutors to put Warren on trial for hitting and choking Felicia last summer, even after she has sworn that she started the fight because she was angry at him for wanting to take away her credit cards, and that he was only trying to settle her down and prevent her from injuring herself after she chucked a candlestick at him.

(A less loving woman might have chucked a candlestick sooner, like maybe last May, when her husband made an out-of-court settlement with a former Minnesota Vikings cheerleader who claimed he forced her to have sex with him.)

Anyhow, after the mid-July tiff, the Moons and their children even held a news conference to assure the world that their marriage was going to be just fine, that they were talking and praying and just wanted to be left alone.

But that wasn't good enough for meddling prosecutors. They insist that Felicia Moon was telling the truth to police when she claimed her husband had choked her so hard she "saw black and could not breathe." At least the judge in this trial had the guts to stand up to prosecutors, refusing to allow the jury to hear what a police detective friend of hers said Felicia told her after the fight: "She said, 'He beat the s--- out of me, Mary,' and she fell into my arms."

Who knows if that's what Felicia Moon actually said?

People's memories, even those of well-trained law enforcement personnel, are highly unreliable.

And even if Felicia Moon did make that remark to her detective friend, maybe she was mistaken. After all, she had just returned from a car chase, during which her husband pursued her at speeds reaching 90 mph. Most women would love to be pursued by one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the country. Anyhow, if the Moons had run anyone over during that chase, or wrecked any buildings, why should the state care? Don't you think the Moons have enough money to make up for the mayhem?

*

When prosecutors rudely insisted on showing the jury blown-up photographs taken of Felicia Moon after that fight--her face bruised and her neck scratched--she politely corrected her earlier misstatements about who caused the injuries:

"It all happened so fast," she said. "My hands were flailing and these could have been self-inflicted."

And I don't know what the prosecution was thinking when it played the tape of a phone call made to 911 by the Moons' 7-year-old son: "My daddy gonna hit my mommy. Please hurry." Children can't be expected to understand the peaks and valleys of the marital landscape. Their perceptions are notoriously unreliable: Who hasn't heard stories about children who interrupt their parents during lovemaking and assume something bad is happening?

On Wednesday, the day after the prosecution rested its case against Warren Moon, the defendant took the stand and backed up his wife: "I was trying to get her under control. She was yelling and screaming. I wanted her to shut up. She just wouldn't. If I wanted to harm anybody, I can harm them. I'm strong enough to do that. When she started to choke, that let me know I needed to back off."

This man has been on trial for assault? He should get a medal for helping his wife overcome her hysteria--and for being so adept at nonverbal communication. How many husbands are that in touch with their wives' feelings? I mean, he could read it in her eyes: Honey, I can't breathe.

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So why is he facing the possibility of a year in jail and / or a $4,000 fine? Why does the state insist on interfering in what the Moons have said is "a private, marital event in which neither spouse feels aggrieved by the other"?

This family, after all, has a long history of reconciling its old conflicts before moving on to new ones. Indeed, the Moons' attempts to improve their marriage through nonverbal communication date back at least a decade.

The Houston Chronicle discovered at the start of this trial that 10 years ago, Felicia Moon filed a divorce petition with a court in Texas in which she asked for child support, custody of the children and a temporary restraining order against her husband, who, she claimed, had beaten her in front of the kids.

You wonder why those meddling prosecutors are wasting tax dollars prosecuting a guy like Warren Moon. Why aren't they chasing real criminals: rapists, murderers and people who beat up strangers?

* Robin Abcarian's column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Readers may write to her at the Los Angeles Times, Life & Style, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053.

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