Tentative Peterson trial date set

A tentative date of Dec. 1 has been set for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to stand trial on a felony child abuse charge, his attorney, Rusty Hardin, said Wednesday.

Peterson did not enter a plea to the charge in Conroe, Texas, north of Houston. Hardin's spokeswoman said Tuesday that the running back had planned to plead not guilty if he was asked to enter a plea Wednesday.

A spokesman for Peterson told ESPN's Michele Steele: "Adrian is going to trial -- he is not looking for a deal."

"I think I want to try to be like the coach of the New England Patriots for a time. Instead of 'on to Cincinnati,' we're on to trial."
Rusty Hardin

Peterson's case might begin in November if another case falls off Montgomery County District Judge Kelly W. Case's docket. Hardin said he is pushing for an expedited trial.

Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon filed a motion to recuse Judge Kelly Case after the judge called each lead attorney in the case a "media whore.'' Case apologized, saying the comment was meant as a joke.

The motion alleges Case has a history of bias against the district attorney's office, and includes affidavits from Montgomery County assistant district attorney Frank Barnett and court worker Vanessa Atkinson, who say they heard Case's comment and said it wasn't in jest. The motion also accuses Case of granting a Dec. 1 trial date after several media outlets had quoted sources saying Hardin would push for the Dec. 1 date.

A hearing on whether Case will be removed is scheduled for Nov. 4.

"Look, this is a really good man that I am incredibly proud to represent," Hardin said of Peterson outside the courthouse. "This is a case about parenting decisions and whether something unfortunate happened when a parenting decision was made by a man who believes strongly and loves his children very much."

Hardin urged the public to not "rush to judgment" with his client, who is accused of striking his 4-year-old son with a switch.

"I would ask all of you to be please be tolerant to the fact that Adrian is chomping at the bit to publicly talk and to publicly defend himself, and the only reason he hasn't is us insisting and jumping up and down and saying, 'The solution is for you to get a speedy trial and resolve all this in a courtroom.'"

Hardin channeled his inner Bill Belichick to end his time with reporters. Belichick, after his team was routed by the Chiefs on "Monday Night Football" last week, responded to questions about his then-sputtering offense by repeatedly answering, "We're on to Cincinnati."

"I think I want to try to be like the coach of the New England Patriots for a time. Instead of 'on to Cincinnati,' we're on to trial," Hardin said Wednesday. "And if you ask me another question, I'm going to say we're on to trial. If you ask me a third question, I'm going to to say we're on to trial."

The hearing was Peterson's first court appearance in Texas since his indictment last month. He was accompanied by his wife and attorney.

Peterson has said he never intended to harm his son by spanking him with a switch, or tree branch, earlier this year. Hardin said Wednesday that Peterson will have no contact with the child until the case is resolved.

If he is convicted, Peterson could face six months to two years in state prison, though he could be placed on probation as a first-time offender. He also could be subjected to NFL discipline under the league's enhanced domestic violence policy, which can suspend players for up to six weeks.

Peterson was put on paid leave by the Vikings, who used a special roster exemption from the NFL commissioner, a few days after the indictment. The chance of his case being resolved before the end of the season appears slim, but coach Mike Zimmer declined Tuesday to address speculation about Peterson's return to the team in 2014.

"I honestly did not know. It happened when we were out here in the walk-through," Zimmer said of Peterson possibly having a Dec. 1 trial date. "I didn't even know the trial was going on until someone told me that it was on TV, or the hearing or whatever it was. Nothing's changed with me.

"We will continue to coach the guys that are here. We'll worry about that situation when it happens. And I wish the very best for Adrian, because I believe in him as a person and I believe in him that he's a good guy. So, I wish the best for Adrian and then we'll worry about the rest when more concrete news comes out, I guess."

Peterson has been on the NFL's exempt/commissioner's permission list since Sept. 17, and he is receiving his full $11.75 million salary. Yet he is barred from all team activities until his case is resolved.

Unless Hardin is able to secure a quick trial date and convince a jury that Peterson did not violate Texas' corporal punishment law while disciplining his son, it likely means the running back's 2014 season is over.

ESPN.com Vikings reporter Ben Goessling and The Associated Press contributed to this report.