When a Denver judge agreed with local prosecutors and dropped the remaining domestic abuse-related charges against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov on Friday, it was both a vindication of Varlamov and the organization.
It is often the case, indeed almost inevitable, that whenever someone in the public eye -- whether it’s a professional athlete, celebrity or politician -- is charged with a crime, and that charge ultimately ends up disappearing, there is never a balancing of the scales in terms of media attention.
The news of an initial charge is invariably disproportionately larger than the disposition of the charge -- a blast of embarrassing attention at the time followed by a shrug of the shoulders, a few tweets, a quick news story and on to the next thing when/if the criminal matter evaporates.
In the wake of the initial charges, which included lurid reports of a drunken Varlamov battering his 24-year-old girlfriend, we wondered aloud at how the Avalanche could allow Varlamov to return immediately to work. He not only traveled with the team in the days after first appearing in court -- he played.
To us it seemed insensitive, too dismissive of the serious nature of the charges.
Varlamov’s agent, Paul Theofanous, told us at the time that he was privy to many things the public and the media weren’t, and he insisted his client was completely innocent of all the charges.
At the time, it seemed the kind of empty commentary that merely clouds a complicated situation -- the kind of comment that seems more designed to placate a client rather than provide any kind of meaningful context.
As it turns out, Theofanous was right, as were the Avalanche, at least insofar as the criminal matters were concerned.
The case against Varlamov turned to dust when the local district attorney’s office admitted in public statements late last week that at the end of the day, it did not believe the claims against Varlamov could be proved in court.
The district attorney's office insisted that the dropping of the final charge of third-degree assault (prosecutors had earlier declined to proceed with a kidnapping charge) didn’t necessarily mean it didn’t believe the alleged victim’s story, but rather that the supporting evidence that could have -- should have? -- supported investigators’ initial claims had in fact thrown doubt on the entire situation.
No one knows the truth of what happened between Varlamov and his girlfriend but the two of them. Whatever that truth is, both will have to live with it, just as they’ll have to live with what was said in the wake of whatever transpired between the two and what the motivation might have been for how it all unfolded.
But as we had wondered at the rush to see Varlamov back in goal -- a course of action seemingly fully explained by the meek manner in which this case fell to pieces -- we now hope that whatever machinery was at play that saw those charges first brought will be given a keen examination by the local authorities. Further, if as appears to be the case, individuals lied or recanted in follow-up examinations in regard to what took place that they, too, are pursued with the same kind of vigor with which the charges against Varlamov were first pursued.
The Avalanche and Varlamov will now get on with their daily routines, and considering the year they’re having after so many seasons to forget, this episode will likely fade.
In the face of the charges and the potentially distracting, disruptive element they represented, the Avalanche soldiered on, and in the end, they were rewarded for their support with the dropping of the charges.
And maybe that’s as it should be for Varlamov, a man now emerged from what must have been a heavy shadow, who can now turn his full attention to preparing for what will likely be a starting role for Russia at the Sochi Olympic Games in February and a possible playoff berth in the spring.
But here’s hoping those whose job it is to seek out the truth in these matters do not stop the pursuit in this case.
At the very least it’s something both Varlamov and the Avalanche deserve.