Renzo Gracie, Twitter and self-defense: a case study of what not to doBy
Last night, Renzo Gracie was apparently involved in an attempted mugging. In and of itself, that’s not such a big deal; people get mugged all the time. What is special about this case is two things:
- It’s Renzo Gracie, an MMA legend.
- He posted live updates on his Twitter account before, during and after the whole thing.
As far as I can tell from Renzo’s account, here’s what happened:
- He was in New York, walking to his car at night, when two guys follow him.
- He spots them following him and confronts them.
- He knocks one of those guys down with two punches and the other one runs. Renzo chases him for half a block.
- Then Renzo goes back to the first guy and hits him a few more times.
- Renzo gets his car and decides to go looking for the runner.
- He spots him, drives a bit further to park his car and then ambushes the runner by jumping on his back and choking him out.
- Then he punches the unconscious guy in the eyes to make sure he has two black eyes.
- He repeats the process two more times: he chokes him out and punches him, speaking to the guy in between chokes to scare him.
- He takes off and goes home.
I’ll get to the finer points of how stupid Renzo acted in a bit but first, here’s the whole twitter feed he posted about the mugging:
“22nd street and 10th ave right now two guys following me, can’t help but have a big smile upon my face Im talking about a happy one
Waiting for them… Are they really thinking I’m drunk??? They have to be kidding. Hahahaha
25th and 10ave they are getting closer lol
I just stop to take a pic, they pretend they are looking at the window, can’t lie… My blood runs in a different speed, man I miss Brazil
JiuJitsu never leave home without it
Please hold there for just a couple minutes be right back
They are coming closer, asking for a cigaret lol can’t help but have a smile in my face. I don’t smoke. Pretend to wobble. They smile
My hands hurt… Can’t help but look at him the other one took off running, not much of a friend. Chicken :-/ I can still see him, he looks
Back as he runs, no chance to catch him… Even though I began to try to run after him, I realize How slow I was. [F***] it :-///
This one asks me why did I do that, pretending to be stupid, one little kick to the ribs makes him whine and apologize, as I’m writing this.
I ask him if he was planing to rob me, he says no. All he wanted was a cigarette, lol I can’t help but have a big smile upon my face, and ..
The certainty that if it was an ordinary man he would be sad about his stolen goods. [F****** c***] cries like a bitch when the tide turns…
I can’t help but take a pic as his nose bleeds and he wines and asks why did I do that… Like he doesn’t know the reason…
My [f*******] hands hurt, hurt like hell…
Drove around two blocks… The other fellow disappear, I’m heading home… Angry for not finding the second one. Guess no sleeping tonight
I knew it yessss
There is basic things like you don’t come back to where the problem was.. You just don’t, I knew he would, just going around the block would
Be enough… Dumb f%#^ I just gave him the old style Raccoon, it has been a while since the last time I did.. Choke him out 3 times…
And before he woke up I did hit each eye socket at least twice, tomorrow he will wake up like a raccoon, and every time he woke up I was…
Whispering at his ears.. That’s what death feels like it.. Don’t do that again. My [f*******] hand hurts, :-/ a lot
Next time I will use only the elbows, damn I miss that feeling, sometimes I wonder if the easy life has been making me
Soft.. All those years in Brazil, without knowing if I would make it home had to count for something, I can’t lie I could have jump in a cab
But I could not help, I could spot them from a mile away, walking was my option, thank you mayor Giuliani, nobody carries a gun in our…
Beautiful state, my lucky day, their bad day… My hand hurts and @FrankieEdgar is here at 9:30am for some training, shoot damn little guy
Could not take a second pic guys sorry, believe I try, as I reach for my iPhone he almost took off :-/ fast mofo”
As always, I wasn’t there and neither were you. So we can never be sure if we’re looking at this accurately or not. That said, I’ll believe Renzo on his word and assume that it all happened the way he described it. I have no reason to doubt his words. If you’d like to hear it all from the man himself, listen to this interview he did:
First some thoughts on all this:
- Renzo is a legend in MMA. There’s no doubt about his skills in the Octagon.
- I’m glad he’s fine. It would have been a shame had he died in something as stupid as a street mugging.
- Renzo acted, in my humble opinion, in a stupid way here. Not in his choice of techniques, but in how he handled the problem as a whole.
- The biggest mistakes he makes are:
- Not trying to flee but choosing to fight and actually looking forward to it (his words, not mine.)
- Going beyond reasonable and legal self-defense. Once the attacker is down and the other one runs away, Renzo no longer has any legal grounds to claim self-defense. He in fact becomes the aggressor. That’s not my opinion, that’s the law.
- Making incriminating public statements about the incident. If you do act in a criminal way, why on earth would you let the whole world know about it?
I repeat, I’m not questioning the man’s skill. I’m questioning his judgement.
Let’s take a look at all this from an objective point of view, namely the legal side of it:
- Renzo claims to be attacked by the muggers but at this point, that’s only his side of the story. There are always two sides to an incident like this and (as we weren’t there and there were no witnesses as Renzo says) the testimony of those two guys will be critical information in an eventual law suit. Wanna bet those two will claim Renzo attacked them first?
- At that point, given the lack of witnesses, the prosecutor has to rely on the facts as they are available to him. And this is where Renzo screws the pooch: he does all the work for the prosecution already. I’m sure a good prosecutor or a good criminal lawyer can find even more goodies but basically, Renzo admits to a whole bunch of things that are not self-defense and are in fact illegal:
- He admits to having spotted the attackers first.
- He admits to waiting for them to get to him.
- He admits to making no effort to flee, which is a critical part of legal self-defense.
- He admits to being of calm and rational mind by tweeting about the whole thing and taking pictures.
- He admits to premeditation by getting his car to look for the other guy.
- He admits to an act of assault and possibly torture by ambushing the second guy and repeatedly choking him out and punching him.
All this from tweeting about the incident and giving interviews on air…
And that’s the biggest mistake he made.
The US is a litigious society, to put it mildly. People sue each other for a whole lot less. Who is right and who is wrong doesn’t even enter into it. If people think they can get some money out of you, they sue your ass. Wanna bet those two muggers think Renzo Gracie has enough cash to make it worth their while to sue? Especially as he has already given their lawyer all the ammo he needs for an excellent case?
What if the case went to court? Well, here’s what a lawyer could say to use Renzo’s words against him:
- My clients were walking peacefully on the street and kindly asked for a cigarette when Mr. Gracie assaulted them. There is no proof against their words. However, Mr. Gracie admits to his violence in both his Twitter messages and in interviews.
- Mr. Gracie clearly states he was uninjured after the incident, except for the damage to his hand form repeatedly punching my clients. My clients clearly have multiple lacerations and other wounds from Mr. Gracie’s violent attack. If my clients attacked him, then how is it Mr. Gracie has no defensive injuries and my clients needed to be hospitalized? Mr. Gracie is clearly the aggressor here.
- Mr. Gracie habitually engages in these criminal acts as he has admitted his involvement in several other incidents in interviews. Mr. Gracie is a recidivist.
- If Mr. Gracie were acting in self-defense, he should have fled, as required by law. He did not. Instead, he admits to happily confronting my clients which de facto negates any claims of self-defense.
- Mr. Gracie was clearly not fearing for his life or grievous bodily harm as he joked about the incident both on his Twitter messages and in subsequent interviews. So this cannot be self-defense as defined by the law.
- When my client ran away from Mr. Gracie’s attack, Mr Gracie deliberately ambushed him and tortured him, as he admitted to in writing and in interviews. He is clearly an aggressive criminal as these acts are in no way self-defense as defined by the law.
In case you think I’m exaggerating, go to your closest college and ask a professor of Law if he thinks Renzo was right in the eyes of the law, both in how he handled the incident and by making public statements. Wanna bet they tell you he is wrong on all counts?
If you don’t buy that, take this case to a criminal lawyer or a police officer and ask their opinion. I’m pretty sure they’ll say the same thing.
I think Renzo is a great MMA fighter but he didn’t handle this in a smart way:
- If the two guys decide to press charges, they have a very strong case to sue his pants off.
- If the DA decides to make an example of him, he can hang Renzo out to dry.
Now before you get all upset:
- I didn’t say the muggers were right and Renzo wrong. I said it’s their word against his if there’s a court case. Had Renzo kept his mouth shut, his side of the story would have been more believable.
- I didn’t say the muggers were poor innocent victims. I have no doubt Renzo is honest in his account and those two were up to no good. As far as I’m concerned, turn about is fair play. If you mug people, don’t complain when they beat the crap out of you.
- I didn’t say Renzo should have rolled over and died. He was there, I wasn’t and I’m sure he handled it the way he thought best. What I did say is that in the eyes of the law (which is the only opinion that matters in court), he was wrong.
- I didn’t say Renzo was stupid. I said he acted stupid in how he handled it all. From his words, from his past experience and from how things are done in Brasil, I get it. But as far as the legal system is concerned, all that is irrelevant when you’re in New York. He’s a grown man of 45, he should know that.
I hope Renzo doesn’t get taken to court over this. It would be a shame for an athlete of his stature to be taken to the cleaners by what are probably just a bunch of thugs. But if this happens, he only has himself to blame. He should have just said nothing. No tweeting, no interviews nothing.
That’s what any decent lawyer would tell him to do.
UPDATE: Apparently, I didn’t make myself clear enough for all the haters who are missing the point I’m making here. So here’s an update about the whole Renzo Gracie, Twitter and Self-defense thing.
UPDATE 2: It’s a few years later now and Renzo got in trouble again, getting arrested this time. Here’s a report. If it goes to court, everything he said and tweeted in this incident can be used against him, like I explained. Even worse, it looks like he hasn’t learned anything because he talks about the whole thing on the MMA hour here. Again, if you get arrested and are due in court: I don’t know of one lawyer who would say that a radio interview is a good idea…