Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the NBA world was rocked by allegations that Oklahoma City Thunder player Josh Giddey had engaged in inappropriate sexual interactions with a girl who is under the legal age of consent. These allegations could lead to charges of second-degree rape and other potential criminal liability. The twenty-one-year-old Australian basketball star has yet to comment on the claims, but the league has opened an investigation into the matter. Moreover, Newport Beach, California law enforcement is also investigating the issue.
Allegations v. Facts
As I’ve discussed before in my blog, there is a massive difference between allegations and facts. Anyone can say anything about another person in this day and age. Sadly, with the proliferation of social media and how quickly “news” can travel online, we now live in a society where individuals, especially those in the public eye, are guilty until proven innocent instead of the other way around.
The allegations originated from a since-deleted post on social media in which an individual stated that a female seen with Giddey was a junior in high school. Since the post, there has been a great deal of speculation as to who the minor female is and what the circumstances are surrounding the alleged inappropriate conduct.
The Age of Consent in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse is sixteen. However, that is not the case in every state. As more news filters through, it is telling that California authorities appear to be heading the investigation into the allegations. Apparently, law enforcement has identified the female in question and zeroed in on her location, and Oklahoma’s laws may not even be relevant.
The latest reports as of the date of this article state the alleged contact occurred two years ago when Giddey would have possibly been nineteen. Reports have further gone on to state that the information currently known shows the minor was a 15-year-old who lied about her age to get into a club where she met Giddey and had what is referred to as potentially a “one night stand” with the basketball player.
The fact that Giddey continues to play for the Thunder while the league and law enforcement investigate furthers the fact that the public should remember these are merely allegations at this point. Giddey has not confessed to any wrongdoing, and we have not heard from any accusing witness. Again, that silence is sometimes expected…especially if there was no wrongdoing, or if breaking the silence would cast the speaker in a negative light.
Of course, it’s possible that the minor and her family simply wish to refrain from becoming the center of a worldwide news firestorm. After all, it’s not every day – or every year, for that matter – that a young, promising athlete commits what would amount to a life-altering and career-killing crime. However, there is also the possibility that the family wishes to make no comment at all, even to mitigate or exonerate Giddey, considering their desire to protect their minor child from the inevitable scrutiny that will follow, regardless of which side of the fence her statements fall on.
Currently, publications speculate that the minor’s family and the minor herself feel remorse and do not wish to cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation. As someone who’s hired to fight major felony sex crimes allegations, I can promise you that it’s hard to successfully prosecute a case without a cooperative witness.
Other Potential Criminal Liability
If the reports about how the two individuals met are accurate, then this is a fact pattern from hell. If Giddey was indeed misled and met the minor in an area restricted to adults only, those are obviously mitigating factors. Still, they will not excuse criminal culpability in states like Oklahoma, which consider second-degree rape, also known as "statutory rape," a “strict liability” crime. With strict liability crimes, it doesn’t matter whether you intended to break the law if the law was, in fact, broken.
In Oklahoma, second-degree rape is consensual rape with someone under the age of consent.
Potentially to Giddey’s benefit, though is the fact that California’s laws differ significantly. Not only is the age of consent there 18, as opposed to 16, but California allows for a defendant to beat the charges if they reasonably believed the alleged victim was at least 18 years old.
The fact that she was in a club we can at least assume only allows individuals 18 and older would be highly beneficial to Giddey’s defense.
However, there may be other potential liability for Giddey in Oklahoma, even if the minor in question is over the age of consent. The online rumor mill has publicized alleged images of the two individuals together, along with the insinuation or inference that they may have photographed or recorded their interactions. If that is true, and Giddey possessed those images or videos in Oklahoma, he could potentially face charges for possession of illicit material involving a minor.
That would put Giddey squarely in the crosshairs of Oklahoma’s laws, which state that even if you have consensual sex with someone between the ages of 16 and 17, you cannot create, possess, or distribute illicit images or videos of that individual for sexual purposes.
In other words, you may be able to have sex with someone legally, but you might not be able to legally possess illicit images or videos of that same person, even if they gave them to you.
Only time will tell how this entire situation plays out.