In a powerful signal that footballers are beyond the law, Brodie Holland has escaped conviction for punching out a young woman in public. His fiancee, Sarita Stella, and another accomplice are likely to plead guilty in a later hearing. Holland walked away with hardly any sanction at all for his violent assault on the much smaller and weaker victim: just a very modest fine.
News that the Collingwood media-performer, eye-candy man and occasional footballer first struck a woman emerged shortly after the December, 2005 incident. His hearing was scheduled for March, 2006. This was not acceptable, so it was pushed back to after the Grand Final. This still couldn't work, so it was pushed back yet again to March, 2007. Many might condemn that it can take almost 18 months to deliver justice in a straight-forward case. Honestly, the Melbourne Magistrates Courts (AFL Division) should be jolly well happy that Holland's people were able to schedule in his hearing at all. He's an important, busy guy with a lot on his plate.
After Holland was able to finally squeeze in the court case, the details emerged. Sarita Stella and her friend Brooke Hawken fought with another woman, Catherine Hill (no relation), outside the Billboards nightclub over a taxi cab. The court heard that Hawken opened the door, which hit Hill, and it was on between the three women. Not content with a mere two-to-one advantage, Holland intervened, perhaps acting on a "swarming" instinct :
After some time Holland stepped into the fracas, grabbing Ms Hill from behind and declaring: "What the f--k are you doing, you stupid slut?" When Ms Hill shrugged off Holland's tackle, he put her in a headlock, but she then bit him on the stomach.
"The stupid slut bit me," the footballer said and responded with a punch to
Ms Hill's head which, according to one witness, left her with her eyes rolling back into her head.
Holland pleaded guilty to one count of recklessly causing injury with the blow, which his lawyer Terry Forrest, QC, said was an over-reaction the footballer now regretted. (The Age, 26/3/2007)
Gee, what a gallant guy. A huge, hulking, professional sportsmen punches a young woman in the head. And gets away with it more-or-less unscathed. Magistrate Duncan Reynolds saw fit to ensure no conviction was recorded for the violent assault, being satisfied that a paltry fine amounting to much less than 1% of Holland's annual income would suffice.
Was this wise? The last AFL player caught hitting a woman in the head at a nightclub was Heath Scotland. The magistrate in that case - Paul Smith - let Scotland escape conviction too, apparently to ensure he could pursue a firefighting career (!?). A few months later, Scotland is once again facing allegations of ... yep, punching a woman in the head out the front of a pub in Ballarat.
Brodie Holland is no stranger to the courts, having been fined over other offences. He's also frequently in front of the AFL's own judiciary for violence and is likely to be suspended for a month or more for his recent on-field behaviour. Despite this, Magistrate Reynolds reckoned Holland is a good bet owing to his volunteer work with the homeless. This does beg the question: exactly how much volunteering must one do in order to punch women in the head and be safe from any conviction? Presumably, at least as much as Scotland and Holland have managed.
An interesting side-effect of this inordinately lengthy delay in justice has been that Sarita Stella (formerly of The Price is Right) was given plenty of breathing room to get her business, Model Behaviour, off the ground. She's been spruiking her products and services on telly, in the papers - even been a "racing ambassador" (sans diplomatic immunity, apparently) - all without having to answer any awkward questions about her role in the assault. Lucky girl.
Speaking of being blessed with free publicity, Brodie "Dutchy" Holland (and his amazing abs) was made famous on Channel 7's Dancing With The Stars. No word yet on whether or not he will try to restore his image with another appearance. Hell, if it works for Holland then Ben Cousins should give Dancing On Ice a go ...
Brodie Holland's girlfriend Sarita Stella has followed the path of her wayward man with a conviction in the Melbourne Magistrates Courts (AFL Division) for her role in this fracas.
Sadly, a media blackout seems to be in force right now, with The Age, The Herald-Sun, NineMSN and the ABC all rejecting coverage of this story. No doubt Stella's business selling "chicken liver" bra implants, "Hollywood tape" and other breast-related products would be threatened by bad press. Funny - these outlets are happy enough to run story after story involving shots of her artifically enhanced cleavage.
Thankfully, I did catch a brief story on Channel Ten news last night (I guess they didn't get the memo yet). I recall she was convicted and fined $500 - but if anyone's got a source I'd be happy to quote it.
If there is a media ban deal in place, then we can expect our screens to be saturated by Sarita Stella making a boob out of herself.
Citations: The Age, 26/3/2007
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