It’s been more than three years since former Washington Redskins safety Curtis Jordan was accused of brutally beating and choking his girlfriend during an argument, leaving her in a pool of blood in her beachfront home.
Jordan, who had just turned 61 and was staying at his Virginia Beach home at the time, was charged with malicious wounding a few weeks after the Jan. 2, 2015 incident. He was arrested, then quickly released on bond.
Since then, the case has languished in the city’s Circuit Court, with the trial repeatedly postponed. Dozens of motions, orders and subpoenas have been filed in the meantime, creating a mountain of paperwork.
Jordan has been allowed to travel extensively while out on bond. He’s made trips to England, Scotland, Italy and Mexico, as well as multiple excursions to Florida, Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area over the past three years, according to documents in his court file. Most of his stays were in 4- and 5-star hotels.
While the criminal case remains on hold, a civil trial stemming from a lawsuit filed by Curtis’ now former girlfriend is set to begin this week in Norfolk’s federal court. It’s expected to last about two weeks and is loaded with attorneys – six are listed for the plaintiff’s side and five for the defense.
It’s rare for a civil case to go to trial before a criminal one when both stem from the same incident, according to some local lawyers and legal experts.
Typically, the criminal case is considered more important and gets priority, said Jeffrey Bellin, a professor at the College of William and Mary Law School and an expert on criminal law.
Also, attorneys for the accused usually seek to delay a civil action to prevent their client from having to answer questions or supply information while criminal charges are pending, the lawyers said.
“It’s a bold strategy to do the civil case first,” said longtime Norfolk attorney Jon Babineau, who handles an equal mix of civil and criminal cases. “There’s lots of potential pitfalls in doing it that way. But if your guy is squeaky clean and you want everyone to know that, then this is a good defense strategy.”
And that’s true in this instance, said Richard Doummar, who, along with James Broccoletti, represents Jordan in the criminal case. Both attorneys also are assisting in the civil matter.
The defense contends that it was Jordan’s ex-girlfriend, Virginia Beach orthopedic surgeon Jamie Alexandra Dale, who attacked their client. They also claim that she was heavily intoxicated at the time and confronted Jordan with a loaded gun. Any injuries she may have suffered were the result of Jordan trying to get the weapon away from her, according to the defense.
“He was trying to break up with her and she wasn’t going to have it,” Doummar said. “He’s telling the truth, his story makes sense, and we believe strongly that she was the aggressor and that she was trying to kill him.”
Dale claims that the beating exacerbated a previous brain injury she’d had, leaving her with no chance of returning to her surgical career and causing a significant loss of income. It also has led to hefty medical bills, with more to come, and much physical and emotional damage, according to her lawsuit.
Her initial brain injury was caused by a car accident and was worsened later by a fall, according to Stephen M. Smith, one of Dale’s attorneys. She was forced to stop operating on patients as a result, but her condition had begun to improve in the months before the assault, leading her to believe that she might soon be able to perform surgeries again, Smith said.
“It’s really tragic,” he said. “She’s a brilliant woman who loved being a surgeon. She was just starting to improve and was on the road back to doing surgery again when this happened.”
Just how serious Dale’s brain injury is, and whether it was made worse by the alleged assault, is expected to be a major source of contention in the civil and criminal trials. Numerous doctors are expected to testify for both sides.
In the criminal case, the defense issued more than 50 subpoenas in an effort to get medical and psychiatric records from all of Dale’s doctors for the past 10 years. Prosecutors sought to quash most of those, calling them an unwarranted invasion of Dale’s privacy. Some of the defense’s requests were granted, in whole or in part, but most were denied.
Many of the criminal trial continuances have been caused by the records requests, as well as the difficulty in trying to coordinate the schedules of all the lawyers, doctors, experts and other witnesses involved in the case. The trial is currently is set to begin Oct. 30.
Jordan, now 64, retired from the NFL in 1986 after playing 11 seasons, first for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then with the Redskins. He was in two Super Bowls, including Super Bowl XVII in 1983, when the Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins.
His greatest financial success, however, has come off the football field, as the owner of restaurants and other businesses. Most are in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, the location of his primary residence. He also has a home in Virginia Beach’s Croatan area, just a few blocks from the beach and from his former girlfriend’s home.
Jordan and Dale began dating about two years before the incident, according to the lawsuit. Both are tall and athletic, with Jordan standing 6-foot-2 and Dale, 5-foot-10. Dale is 16 years younger than Jordan.
On New Year’s Day 2015, the two spent most of the evening going to various homes and restaurants to watch college football, the civil lawsuit states. They went back to Alexander’s house sometime after midnight and soon got into an argument.
Dale claims that Jordan screamed at her, called her names and accused her of flirting with another man in front of him. She said that when she slapped him, he began to brutally attack her, tackling her to the ground and repeatedly slamming her head on the floor. When she tried to get up, he swept her legs out from under her, causing her to fall and hit her head again.
She said she eventually was able to get to her bedroom to retrieve an unloaded gun. Jordan then tackled her again, took the gun and choked her until she lost consciousness, the lawsuit claims. After coming to, she fled to her bedroom and blocked the door with a chair. Jordan tried to kick it in, then cleaned up the crime scene and left with her gun, the lawsuit says.
When Jordan returned early the next morning, Dale says, she was lying in bed, weak and bleeding profusely. She says she begged him to help her, but he refused. He left after further cleaning blood from the crime scene and gathering some of his personal items, the suit says.
Dale’s neighbors became worried when they did not see her that morning and went to her house to check on her, the suit claims. An ambulance was called and Dale was taken to a hospital. The defense says she was released within 24 hours. Police and other emergency responders noted seeing blood on the carpet, a door frame, stairs and bedding.
Dale’s injuries included head trauma, ripped tendons and bursitis of the elbow, according to a criminal complaint filed by a detective. The lawsuit states that she also suffered cuts to her head, ears and foot, an ankle sprain, a torn ligament and bruises all over her body. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder afterward and has difficulty sleeping, Smith said. The brain injury also has caused speech problems, he said.
“The intelligence is still there,” the lawyer said. “She just has trouble finding the right words sometimes.”
Each side has accused the other of harassment and intimidation since the charges were filed. Jordan’s bond conditions are strict when he is in Virginia Beach. He is barred from driving in Croatan and from coming within 200 yards of Dale. He also is required to wear an alcohol monitoring device when he’s in town and must inform Dale’s lawyers of when he plans to be here.
Dale purchased a security dog and a therapy dog after the attack, her lawyer said. “It’s been a nightmare for her, and she can’t get closure with the criminal case dragging on for so long,” Smith said.
The civil case likely will provide a good preview for the criminal one, said Doummar, one of Jordan’s attorneys. “Both sides will gain a ton of information from the civil case – what the experts are going to say and what the witnesses are going to say.”
While the rules of evidence are much the same in a civil case, there is more leeway in what kind of information is allowed and who can be called to testify. The burden of proof is also much lower, The plaintiff only has to prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence: that there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the defendant did what the plaintiff claims he did. Criminal cases must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The O.J. Simpson case is a great examples,” Doummar said. “He won the criminal case, but he got slaughtered in the civil case.”