Defensive end Greg Hardy will not be convicted of domestic violence after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County District Attorney's office dropped all charges when accuser Nicole Holder did not appear for court Monday morning in Hardy's jury trial.
Reports indicated last week that Holder was not cooperating with the prosecution after appearing as a witness in the initial July 16 trial. The reason for her lack of cooperation was unclear, until the most obvious answer came to light.
DAs haven't been able to find Holder. State has reliable info of a settlement.— Joe Person (@josephperson) February 9, 2015
The settlement determined the legal proceedings for the case, and without the alleged victim on the stands it was impossible for prosecutors to proceed with charges. Legally it means Hardy is not guilty of any wrongdoing, but that doesn't mean he'll return to the Panthers.
Now a free agent, the team will need to decide what kind of money (if any) they're willing to offer a talented defensive end with a history of questionable decision making. Hardy's off-field history with the Panthers has been spotty at best, even outside of the Holder trial. In 2011 he wrecked his motorcycle prior to training camp, and a year later took a photo of a speedometer reading over 100 mph and bragged about the speed of his Bentley on Instagram.
Moreover, there's still the NFL's cloud looming over the situation. While Hardy was released from legal charges, the news of a settlement far from exonerates the Panthers' defensive end. Legal proceedings and NFL punishment rarely fall hand-in-hand, and it's entirely possible Hardy could be suspended for "conduct detrimental to the league" regardless of today's verdict.
.@NFL on Greg Hardy:"His status remains unchanged until we fully review the matter." Remember, NFL no longer just relies on law enforcement— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 9, 2015
A small group of Panthers fans have taken to social media to try and lobby for Hardy to return, but realistically that seems like an impossibility. Not wholly because of his off-field behavior over the last four years, but also because the salary cap for Carolina doesn't have the leeway to sign another high dollar defensive end in their current salary cap situation. The cap is better than it was a year ago, but by signing Hardy it would be tantamount to the same mistake the Panthers made when both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart got big money contracts. Investing too much in any one position is a mistake.
The Panthers released the following statement, essentially saying they'd follow the NFL's lead.
"We are aware of the decision by the district attorney's office to dismiss charges against Greg Hardy. Greg remains on the Commissioner's Exempt List and the NFL has advised us to allow it to complete its review under the personal conduct policy. There is no change in his status at this time."