September 9, 2021

Baseball Writer-Analyst Jonah Keri Pleaded Guilty To Numerous Criminal Charges, Including Threatening To Cut A Fetus Out Of His Ex-Wife's Womb And Throw Her Off A Balcony; Two Years After His Arrest, Keri's Male Colleagues Have Yet To Speak Out Against Him

On August 30, 2021, baseball writer/analyst Jonah Keri pleaded guilty to at least twelve criminal charges for repeatedly threatening (including death threats) and physically assaulting his ex-wife.

According to the Montreal Gazette, the charges

included hitting, headbutting, and biting his wife in the face, grabbing a kitchen knife and threatening to remove their unborn baby from her body and telling her he would throw her off a balcony.

Keri also told his wife he would kill her brother and father if she ever told them about the violence . . . and on two occasions threatened to crash the car they were driving in.

One incident followed an argument the couple had over a trip Keri wanted to take in the fall of 2018.

"Mr. Keri spits in her face. He threatens to hit her in the stomach (while she is pregnant). He then hits her with two open hands at ear-level," the statement says of the incident.

The next day, it continues, "while driving Mr. Keri weaves between lanes, and threatens to push (his wife) out the door, as well as crash the vehicle and kill both of them."

In another violent outburst, a few weeks later, the court heard how Keri's wife tried to explain to him why she was afraid of him. After an argument ensued, he headbutted her several times, breaking her nose.

"Mr. Keri states that he hopes her and the baby die," the document says of the assault. "He then states there are knives in the apartment and she won't survive her pregnancy."

In all, the statement of facts detailed more than a dozen instances of verbal and physical abuse between July 2018 and January 2019. Asked by the presiding judge whether he admits to the incidents described, Keri whispered in court: "Yes, your honour."

In a separate file, Keri also pleaded guilty to charges of assaulting a minor.

Julie DiCaro, a writer for Deadspin, reports the final incident between Keri and his ex-wife was when he strangled her in their home. She was reportedly able to call the police only "because the family dog came to her defense and attacked Keri". DiCaro states that studies have found abusers who strangle their victims are seven times more likely to eventually kill them.

Keri's lawyer, Jeffrey Boro, said his client had been dealing with mental health issues at the time of the assaults and spent three weeks in a psychiatric ward following his arrest. DiCaro points out that suggesting mental illness as an excuse for Keri's criminal behaviour is bullshit (that's my word, not hers). She notes: "Deadspsin was unable to uncover any reports of Keri threatening or getting physically violent with anyone other than his wife" and "several incidents of violent abuse against his ex, both charged and uncharged, took place moments before Keri did a TV [appearance, during which] he appeared calm, collected, and even jovial".

Far from making Keri a more sympathetic abuser, his wild mood swings are entirely consistent with those of classic abusers. DiCaro quotes the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

A common assumption we hear at The Hotline is that abuse is caused by a partner's mental health condition, for example: bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), narcissistic personality, borderline personality or antisocial personality. While these are serious mental health conditions, they do not cause abuse. Nothing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM 5) states that a mental illness solely causes a partner to be abusive in a relationship; however, there are a select few diagnoses that can increase the risk of abusive patterns to show up in a relationship and in other areas of life. Mental illness tends to impact all areas of a person's life, such as work, interactions with friends, family engagement and personal relationships. In contrast, abuse primarily impacts personal relationships and typically not the other areas of life. (my emphasis)


The mere fact that Keri was able to fool so many in the industry for so long isn't a testament to mental illness being the cause of his abuse. It's evidence that he was a run-of-the-mill violent abuser and nowhere near as special or as brilliant as he would have liked everyone to believe.

"Everyone, it seems, has a Jonah Keri story," one woman told Deadspin. DiCaro recounts several incidents, including Keri apparently promising to assist women in their careers in exchange for sexual relationships and sending women unasked-for pictures of his penis. One woman said: "[M]any of us knew he was a creep and a fraud with an ego the size of a planet." Numerous women stated Keri was sexually suggestive and aggressive with them and constantly bragged about how many women wanted to sleep with him. Another woman called his behaviour "weird and gross and also delusional". 

DiCaro admits: "None of the women we spoke to for this story were willing to speak on the record, out of fear that, despite how far he's fallen, Keri could still harm their careers, or worse." She adds:

Continued silence from men in the industry who — according to the women we spoke with — were aware of troubling stories about Keri, certainly hasn't made sports media feel any safer. In fact, with as many anecdotes floating around out there about Keri as there seem to be, it's bewildering that he managed to get increasingly higher profile gigs. . . .

As one woman told me in the days following Keri's arrest, "I'm waiting to see/hear if the men I worked with will call him out online or on their media platforms. So far, nothing."

Two years since Keri's arrest, it's still true.

Sheryl Ring's essay from Beyond the Box Score from December 2019 remains relevant:

[I]t's becoming increasingly impossible to ignore just how deeply the cancer of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence is spreading - or has already spread - throughout the league.

Just this year [2019], we saw the Pirates' Felipe Vazquez arrested for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old. Roger Clemens is being considered for the Hall of Fame with little or no discussion of the fact that he allegedly sexually assaulted a 15-year-old. Former Astros assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman thought nothing at all of shouting "thank f*****g God we got Osuna!" at reporter Alyson Footer, as reported by Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein, simply because Footer wore a bracelet bringing awareness to intimate partner violence. Most recently, former Rangers and Giants reliever Sam Dyson was credibly accused of abusing not only his girlfriend, but also their cat

It's important to note that the fault for domestic abuse lies – in each case – uniquely and entirely with the abuser. That said, however, it's impossible to examine the league without wondering what, exactly, contributes to this cultural lack of accountability which continues to permeate the sport. Unfortunately, we don't need to look far to realize just how complicit we in sports media have been in excusing this behavior.

Bob Nightengale, for example, earlier this year wrote a paean to Addison Russell extolling him in terms which should be reserved for philanthropists rather than abusers, even purportedly repentant ones. Earlier this year, I noted that a number of members of the media had been strongly persuaded by the Cubs to publish only positive articles, a directive with which far too many people complied. Not committing intimate partner violence should be an expectation, not a praiseworthy accomplishment. (The Cubs organization, it should be noted, responded by calling me a liar.) . . . 

Earlier this year, longtime baseball scribe Jonah Keri was arrested for domestic abuse, including threatening to kill his wife – charges his attorney did not deny but instead chalked up to things that are "sometimes said in a moment of anger."

The response from the baseball world was sadly predictable: men saying that they had no idea Keri would behave in such a reprehensible manner, and women and non-men telling their stories about how Keri acted towards them for years before, in plain view and yet entirely ignored or dismissed. Just four months later, Keri violated the terms of his release by calling his former spouse, an act his attorney said was an inadvertent "pocket dial." The baseball universe collectively shrugged . . .

Some weeks ago, I pointed out that MLB's domestic violence policy was targeting men of color to the exclusion of white offenders. Keri epitomizes that gap – a white offender, excluded from coverage under the domestic violence policy because he isn't a player (even though the Baseball Writers' Association of America is a party to other parts of the CBA), and a white cishet male sportswriter, typical of the overwhelmingly white, straight, male writers covering baseball to this day.

By some estimates, ninety percent of writers covering professional baseball are white and a similarly dismal percentage are male. It is therefore no surprise whatsoever that a white, male corps of journalists would act, perhaps even unintentionally, to protect its own. The result contributes to the sport's lackadaisical attitude towards intimate partner violence generally, and to the disproportionate targeting of players of color when discipline and scorn are meted out. As I wrote earlier this year, for example, Felipe Vazquez is facing criminal charges for sexually assaulting a teenager, whilst Roger Clemens is being considered for Hall of Fame induction and Luke Heimlich was nearly signed by both the Astros and Royals after pleading guilty to raping a toddler

All of this is contributing – and not at all quietly – to the rotting of professional baseball. . . . Dehumanizing the survivors of intimate partner violence leads inexorably to the dehumanization of other underprivileged groups – players of color, immigrant players, and eventually, players generally – in favor of the more powerful. The dehumanization of domestic abuse survivors is just another turn in that inexorable cycle, both cause and effect. . . .

Some actions are just wrong. Some things should not be turned into redemption stories for clicks. We owe it to the fans, the players, and ourselves to be more representative; white people should not be the primary disseminators to the public of information about a system which still retains vestiges of its deeply racist roots, and men should not be the primary disseminators of information about toxic masculinity and its effects. We need to have the humility to know when our writing will do harm, and how. We need to have the humility to know when not writing will do harm. And we need to decide what the cost of our unquestioning fealty to this sport is, and whether we can live with that in the years to come.

The prosecution in Keri's case is asking for two years jail time, which seems extremely lenient, considering there were 13 criminal counts, including numerous death threats towards at least four people. Keri will be sentenced on November 30.

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