A Day in the Life of Conor McGregor

Always entertaining, always worthy of the metric tons of digital ink devoted to him… that’s Conor McGregor, who really did it this time by rampaging his way through a run-of-the-mill UFC 223 media day and breaking stuff. Now McGregor has a million news stories devoted to him and his improbable (or maybe very probable?) injection into the New York criminal justice system.

Which, hey, guess what? I happen to know quite a bit about. Because long before MMA journalism, there was law school, and before that there was the New York City Police Academy, a brief stint wearing a shiny City of New York badge, an undergraduate degree in criminal justice… even an internship that had me inside the very precinct where McGregor spent Thursday night.

So if you want fantastic coverage of McGregor’s rampage and the aftermath, the UFC has you covered with the best episode of Embedded ever, and MMAFighting and MMAJunkie have kicked ass as usual. But this piece is about criminal procedure in New York City and what it’s like behind the figurative “Blue Wall” that separates civilians from the employees of the NYPD.

And it begins the moment McGregor committed a crime.

The Pre-Arrest Phase

Make no mistake about it: Once he hoisted that hand-truck in the bowels of the Barclays Center and smashed the window of the van transporting fighters, McGregor was going to be speaking with the police at some point. And with a call to 911 bringing uniformed officers to the scene, that point would be sooner rather than later.

From a procedural standpoint, once the police are brought in, the game is centered around investigation and ascertaining if a crime was committed and by whom.

Obviously, with all the eye-witness accounts and damning video, it was clear a law or two was broken by McGregor. The biggest concerns to the Boys in Blue would then be: was this event staged, and if not, was McGregor a danger to himself or others?

Without being privy to the on-scene interviews investigators would’ve conducted, we can assume the UFC brass made it known that what McGregor had done was not, in fact, part of some elaborately choreographed event. After all, Michael Chiesa was bleeding from a cut on his forehead, other fighters were visibly shook up, and Dana White was using his quiet, somber voice and not his loud, hyping-fights voice. It was, to steal the old catchphrase, “as real as it gets.”

Based on the video footage alone, there was probable cause to slap the cuffs on McGregor if any cop came across him, but we can only guess that his threat level to the general public was deemed somewhat low – a guess born from the fact that the city wasn’t placed on lockdown and a door-kicking manhunt wasn’t initiated. Detectives probably called all the swanky hotels to see if McGregor was a guest, and looked into if he had any relatives or acquaintances with local residences, but no barking bloodhounds were put on his scent.

It’s the job of the police to gather evidence of a suspect’s crimes, but the determination of just what those crimes are is left to the Office of the District Attorney – or more aptly, the Assistant District Attorney who’s manning the ADA desk in the precinct. McGregor’s celebrity status and all the media attention might have made things a little more complicated, with senior attorneys giving their two cents whether it was requested or not, but the process would remain intact. McGregor had broken the law, the evidence made it a no-brainer. There may not have been any arrest warrants issued and put into the city-wide system at this point, but we now know the prosecutable crimes were assault and criminal mischief, so if the UFC star didn’t make himself available soon, well, things would get hairy.

That impending hairiness likely had McGregor making phone calls, to White for advice, and to a really good attorney. Because really, fleeing the jurisdiction would’ve been tough. Regardless of whether there was an arrest warrant or not, if the police want to talk to a person of interest, there are mechanisms in place to make sure that happens in this post-9/11 world. McGregor was stuck. Every police cruiser has a computer terminal displaying the names and faces of those detectives “want a word with”, and the Irishman would’ve been a topic touched upon by every patrol sergeant at every 4pm shift muster in precincts throughout all the Five Boroughs.

Therefore, it would’ve been the really good attorney who advised McGregor to turn himself in. Of course, not before coordinating that surrender with the folks at the 78 Precinct (which has jurisdiction over where the crimes occurred, and where the detectives handling the case would be based out of).

With the investigation still ongoing, the police would also have an eye on apprehension; McGregor’s surrending would satisfy that aspect of things, bringing the Irishman’s journey through the system into the next phase.

 

The Custody Phase

Once the police have a suspect in custody, the game changes. There are still elements of investigation going on – often taking the form of interviews and interrogations, and of course more evidence gathering – but instead of apprehending suspects, it’s all about keeping those suspects in one piece, processing their information and putting them in the system, and getting them before a judge in a somewhat timely fashion.

Usually, that can involve keeping prisoners in the precinct’s holding cell until a transport van can ferry them all to central booking, where processing is done en masse.

However, sometimes – like, when the suspect is a celebrity that half the other prisoners will want to fight and half the prisoners will want get a little too chummy with – a trip to central booking will cause more problems than it’s worth.

This is likely why McGregor spent the night at the 78th Precinct instead of being transported elsewhere.

Are the holding cells nice? Or course not. They’re somewhat small, they’re stinky, and they’re full of dirtbags who reek of booze, drugs and dismay.
Maybe McGregor had to sit in one all night. But then again, maybe he didn’t. It’s entirely possible his celebrity status had him chilling on the couch in the lieutenant’s office, taking selfies with every badge-wearer who dropped by, from high-ranking borough commander on down to lowly patrolman. Because you can bet once McGregor entered the system, the word went out that he was in custody at the 78, and hey, wouldn’t it be great to stop in and get a picture with him?

Since that stuff goes on on the other side of the Blue Wall, we may never know for sure what it was truly like for McGregor while in custody. But on this side of the Wall, which is the side with all the media members with their cameras camped outside of the precinct, everything was courtesy, respect and by-the-book procedure. For example, when McGregor exited the front door of the 78 in the morning to be transported to his arraignment, his hands were cuffed behind his back – standard procedure, standard “perp walk”. It is possible, however, that if there were no reporters and cameras present, he would’ve had his hands cuffed in front of him with a jacket covering the steel bracelets. The former is what’s done with “bad guys”; the latter is what’s done for those who get special treatment. Can you think of any other UFC fighter more likely to get that kind of special treatment?

Some prisoners have a pretty crappy experience in the custody phase, and they languish in this limbo for much longer than McGregor did, stuck among the plebes who are often bear the marks (and blood stains) of their transgressions.

But this is not the lot of kings, and in the morning, after being allowed some time to freshen up for the waiting cameras and probably eat a decent bagel and drink a cup of coffee from the box bought at Dunkin’ Donuts by the desk sergeant, McGregor would leave the 78 behind and head to his first visit to the judge and New York City’s criminal courts.


NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 06: Conor Mcgregor is seen leaving the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn on April 6, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)

The Arraignment Phase

Like a glittering, golden hot potato, McGregor would leave the hands of his adoring fans in the NYPD and be passed into the hands of his adoring fans in the Kings County Criminal Courts – which includes bailiffs, clerks and a judge.

The goal at this point on the timeline is to formally levy charges against a suspect (thereby making him a defendant), ask him if he pleads guilty or not guilty (or other, but we won’t go there), determine his worthiness of bail, and set in motion his voyage through the court system. Much of what transpires is negotiations between the soon-to-be-defendant’s counsel and the overworked ADA assigned the case, with the judge brought in to hammer out things like where the hell the press should stand and how many cameras those vultures are allowed to have.

This is where it pays to have Floyd Mayweather-earned millions making fat your bank account. Because as everyone who’s ever heard the Miranda Rights knows, you have the right to remain silent, but also, if you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. And those free ones? They suck. So McGregor’s expensive attorney would’ve earned his fee big time here, transforming a prosecutor’s desire to turn three counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of felony criminal mischief into jail time, torture and public execution into a deal where McGregor posts bail (a paltry $ 50,000), gets his passport back, and is allowed to leave the country.

And that’s ultimately what happened.

 

What’s Next?

The judge (actually, really the clerk) has set McGregor’s next court date as June 14. But so much can – and will – happen before then, and they center around more negotiations between the Irishman’s attorney and the Office of the District Attorney.

Whatever they iron out will determine what punishment McGregor faces, and this is always a kind of trade. The currency: McGregor’s guilty plea in exchange for punishment that doesn’t involve jail time in New York State’s correctional system (which is a whole other ball of wax).

 

There you have it. We don’t know for sure what McGregor experienced while in the system, and likely never will until he pens his autobiography, but this is the closest approximation of what happened.

Don’t smash van windows, kids. Even Conor McGregor can’t get away with it.

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