Attorneys say Scottie Scheffler likely won't face felony conviction: 'Probably about a zero percent chance'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Scottie Scheffler may avoid the most serious charges filed against him stemming from Friday morning’s altercation with a police officer, according to three Kentucky criminal defense attorneys contacted by Yahoo Sports.

Early Friday morning, with traffic already at a snarl because of a fatal accident in the area of Valhalla Golf Club, site of the 2024 PGA Championship, Scheffler attempted to enter the club but was stopped by a police officer. From there, the stories diverge. The police report says the officer was dragged to the ground and suffered injuries severe enough to require hospitalization. Scheffler’s attorney countered in a statement that Scheffler "stopped immediately upon being directed to and never at any point assaulted any officer with his vehicle."

Following the incident, Scheffler was handcuffed and booked on multiple charges, including second-degree assault on a police officer (felony), third-degree criminal mischief (misdemeanor), reckless driving (violation) and disregarding signals from an officer directing traffic (misdemeanor).

How serious are those charges, and how much trouble is Scheffler realistically facing? Yahoo Sports spoke to three Kentucky attorneys with extensive experience in Louisville criminal matters, and the consensus bodes well for Scheffler.

“Cops these days, everyone has body cam,” says Russ Baldani, senior partner in the Baldani Law Group of Lexington. “There will be video of what happened. … It’s going to depend on what actually happened, but I’m used to these descriptions of events being way exaggerated. Unless video evidence shows that it’s extremely egregious — if he literally did drag the cop, that kind of thing — it's probably not going to amount to anything."

“Assault of a police officer is a Class C felony [which] carries a possibility of five to 10 years,” says William Butler, a Louisville-based criminal defense attorney. “Don’t take this to the bank, but I’m sure that’ll be dismissed.”

In this mug shot provided by the Louisville Metropolitan Department of Corrections Friday, May 17, 2024, Scott Scheffler is shown. Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was detained by police Friday morning on his way to the PGA Championship, with stunning images showing him handcuffed as he was led to a police car. (Louisville Metropolitan Department of Corrections via AP)
In this mug shot provided by the Louisville Metropolitan Department of Corrections on Friday, Scott Scheffler is shown. Scheffler was detained by police Friday morning on his way to the PGA Championship. (Louisville Metropolitan Department of Corrections via AP)

In Kentucky, second-degree assault can occur when an individual “wantonly causes serious physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.”

“It's not an uncommon charge in this type of thing,” says Gary Stewart, a Louisville criminal defense attorney. “I've seen where people are driving through accident scenes, I've had clients not following directions. I've always seen them charge him with assault based on if there's any type [of] injury to the officer — if they bump their knee, if they've been injured in any way, they always do charge him with the felony assault charge.”

“Obviously, he didn't have a weapon,” Butler says. “But a car has been held to be a dangerous instrument, a deadly instrument. That's probably what that is.”

Based on the evidence and the statements of the police and Scheffler’s attorney, Butler believes that Scheffler “may be guilty” of reckless driving, which is a traffic offense. As for the criminal mischief charge, Butler considers that a “minor misdemeanor.”

The charge of disregarding an officer’s signals will be more difficult for Scheffler to disprove, Butler believes. “That's a strict liability offense. So, his defense that he didn't know he's a police officer probably won't work,” Butler said. “I saw pictures, I saw some video, the officers were wearing yellow ... he looked like a police officer to me.”

Scheffler’s arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday, with any future court proceedings, including a possible trial, to follow in the coming weeks and months.

It may be some time before the public gets a clearer view of the incident. “Body cam [videos] usually aren't released right away,” Stewart says. “I would say it would be a minimum 10 days before they release that. Now, his attorney might have access to it before then. But as far as the public access, that might have to go through open records before they would — and with an open investigation, they don't have to release it until the investigation's done.”

“When everybody calms down, I don’t believe that there was an assault,” Butler says. To him, the scenario sounds like a bad combination: “A mad police officer, he was standing out in the rain, and somebody’s been killed, and there’s this guy driving down the side. … I suspect that, in the final analysis, what'll happen will be, they'll dismiss the assault on a police officer, and he may be guilty of the traffic offenses.”

“Is he going to be convicted of the felony?” Baldani says. “Probably about a zero percent chance.”