April 15, 2021


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Justin Gimelstob pleads “no contest” in battery case, gets probation

Justin Gimelstob won’t be going to jail.

The judge in the felony battery case against the 42-year-old former player, who currently is a broadcaster on Tennis Channel and a player representative on the ATP Tour’s board of directors, reduced the charge to a misdemeanor.

He will get three years’ probation and perform community labor.

Gimelstob’s legal odyssey in the wake of a physical attack on 50-year-old former friend Randall Kaplan in the tony Brentwood area of Los Angeles on Oct. 31, 2018 ended Monday in a courtroom near the Los Angeles airport.

It was somewhat of a surprise in some quarters. Some had expected Gimelstob to plead “not guilty” to the charge of felony battery. If he had, the case would have proceeded to trial.

But Gimelstob pleaded nolo contendere to the charge at the re-arraignment hearing.

In some ways, “no contest” is the same as a “guilty” plea. But it is not technically an admission of guilt. And it allows the court to determine the punishment.

ATP issues statement

On Tuesday morning, the ATP issued the following statement in reaction to the conclusion of the case.

“Justin Gimelstob holds an elected position as one of the three Player Representatives on the ATP Board of Directors and under our organisation’s by-laws his position is therefore a matter of review for the ATP Player Council and/or the ATP Board. The decision was taken to let the judicial process run its courts before any judgement was made made on his future. So with that process complete this is now a subject for review by the Board and/or the Player Council,” the ATP wrote.

“As a related matter, the election for the role of the next Americas Player Representative on the ATP Board – the position currently held by Gimelstob – will take place as scheduled on Tuesday, May 14, in Rome.”

The board had already discussed Gimelstob’s future back in December, including the possibility of ousting him from his position on the board. But it didn’t get the votes, and therefore had to let the matter play out in the courts.

The All-England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs Wimbledon, also weighed in Tuesday.

Notably, after nearly 24 hours of mulling it over, the club removed certain luxury privileges. But the AELTC did not indicate it would prevent him from being credentialed to carry out any of his myriad tennis responsibilities.

Three years and 60 days

What judge Upinder Kalra – the fourth judge during the relative brief duration of this case – determined was the felony battery charge would be reduced to a misdemeanour.

Kalra sentenced Gimelstob to three years’ probation. He also must do 60 days of community labor.

Gimelston also must attend a year of anger management classes – a no-brainer, given the circumstances of the case.

He already had been seeking help for those issues, long before the judge mandated it.

As well, Gimelstob must make full restitution to Kaplan. A hearing to determine the amount of that restitution will be held Sept. 16.

Victim impact statements powerful

The victim impact statements submitted to the court by Kaplan and his wife Madison are both shocking and powerful.

Kaplan’s victim impact statement outlines in great detail his recounting of the events of Oct. 31, 2018.

They were read out in court, although the actual reading might have deviated here and there from the original text.

Kaplan’s statement is detailed as to what he says happened to him on that night.

And the statement also goes into other less-than-savory alleged instances in Gimelstob’s past.

It should be noted the statements are uncontested, in the sense that their contents were not subject to cross-examination in the arraignment context.

Now that they are in the court record, Gimelstob would have an opportunity to contest their veracity if he files a civil suit.

The video taken by Kaplan’s wife, that is referred to in the statement, was not shown in court. The judge viewed it in chambers.

You can read Randall Kaplan’s statement here. And Madison Kaplan’s statement is here.

A statement from Gimelstob’s attorney, Michael Kump, said that Gimelstob had pleaded no contest “to move on with his professional life and focus on his family.”

Kump is a partner in the same firm as Shawn Holley, the noted celebrity attorney whose experience in damage control for high-profile clients is well documented – if you can afford her. Holley has navigated Gimelstob’s case through the balancing act of his wanting to clear his name, and the damage to his personal reputation caused by the airing of the facts of the case.

Judge will monitor the probation

According to the Los Angeles Times, the judge admonished Gimelstob in the courtroom for his reactions as Kaplan was reading out his impact statement.

“As the couple recounted the attacks and Randy Kaplan alleged that Gimelstob had a history of violence, the tennis executive repeatedly shook his head “no.” The judge afterward criticized Gimelstob’s behavior, wondering how he would control himself outside court if he could not then,” the L.A. Times reported. “Gimelstob told the judge that there was “no place for physical violence in society” and that he accepted responsibility for his actions on Halloween.”

In addition to whatever restitution Gimelstob must make to Kaplan and his family, he may well find himself involved in a civil suit in the wake of the incident. Kaplan’s spokesman said there was no comment about that possibility, at this time.

For these purposes, a plea of “no contest” to a felony is essentially the same as a guilty plea in that is “admissible as an admission in a civil case growing out of the act on which the criminal prosecution is built.”, according to section 1016 (3) of the Penal Code.

We would expect Gimelstob also will file a civil suit, and in short order.

Tennis Channel return to be discussed

To the sport of tennis at large, Gimelstob’s legal issues are of interest largely in terms of the impact, if any, they will have on his various responsibilities in the game.

The New York Times had a statement from Ken Solomon, president of the Tennis Channel.

Gimelstob had worked as a commentator on the channel until last fall, when he took a hiatus.

“Justin asked us for a hiatus period from his Tennis Channel announcing duties, prior to any legal proceedings, in order to have time to deal with his personal situation,” Solomon told the times. “We, of course, acquiesced to his wishes. Together we agreed to meet whenever Justin was ready, presumably after due process has been served. We are here and ready to discuss the situation with Justin whenever appropriate, and will decide at that time.”

Gimelstob’s other big responsibility is as Player Council presentative on the ATP Tour board of directors. (His production company also produces content for the ATP Tour’s media arm).

Since all this began, the Player Council met to discuss its stand on the renewal of current ATP Tour CEO Chris Kermode’s contract for another three years.

After meeting at Indian Wells, they determined they were deadlocked. And so, they left their votes up to their representatives on the board. In addition to Gimelstob, those include British lawyer Alex Inglot and Tennis Channel vice-president David Egdes.

Egdes, who served as a player representative for a decade, was pressed into service in the interim, after the players voted to oust Roger Rasheed.

He subsequently was duly re-elected during the Indian Wells meetings.

The board needed at least two of them to vote for Kermode to stay. They didn’t get those votes, and Kermode will leave at the end of the year.

Support for Gimelstob

Gimelstob has had several coaching stints with his good friend John Isner – among his many and varied involvments in tennis.

The Kermode decision has definitely split the ATP Tour players.

Novak Djokovic and Canadian Vasek Pospisil have been on the “leave Kermode” side.

Star players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and others – who are not currently on the Player Council – have been public in their support of Kermode.

John Isner, another Player Council member, is a close friend of Gimelstob’s. He was coached by him on several occasions. And even with all of his legal woes, Gimelstob has publicly supported Isner at various tournaments in the U.S. over the last couple of months.

Meanwhile, Gimelstob’s term as a player representative is coming to expiration. He will be up for re-election when the Player Council meets in Rome next month.

Pospisil, a member of the Player Council since Wimbledon last year, issued this statement when reached Monday night by Tennis.Life.

”I would like to stay away from commenting on the matters of Justin’s personal life as I am ill-equipped to answer such questions, or make statements on that matter. I will say, however, that Justin has done an incredible job in his position as a player board representative,” Pospisil said.

“He has conducted himself with the utmost integrity during the nine months I have been on the council and has fought for the players’ rights.”

On Saturday, Pospisil clarified his comments to David Law of the BBC.

Tuesday followups

In a Tuesday follow-up piece, the U.K.’s Telegraph (which has had an outsized interest in this case from the very beginning) published a story focused on Gimelstob’s behaviour as Kaplan was reading his impact statement in court.

It describes the judge’s opinion of the American’s reactions. And it includes his admonishments that if Gimelstob attempts to proclaim his innocence outside the judge’s courtroom, he might well find himself back in it. The Telegraph reporter tells how Gimelstob handed him copies of some of the material from Mrs. Kaplan’s Instagram account (which, if you saw it, does indeed paint quite a different virtual picture of the months following the attack).

On the flipside, the New York Times published an uneven piece that was part “insight’ into Gimelstob’s drive, part “sort of” mea culpa, part “he drove me to it”, and part braggadocio about how good a job Gimelstob does for the players he represents on the ATP Tour.

That he does do a good job for them is in little doubt. In addition to some strong personal relationships, it is at the core of the support he enjoys from influential members of the ATP Player Council.

It may well also be a reason that those on the other side of the odd, near-unworkable marriage that is the ATP are motivated to see him disappear. 

The dynamic between the for-profit tournaments and the players who play a large role in generating those profits, and want a bigger share of them, is a tug of war. The marriage of convenience may have soldiered on in a relatively peaceful cease fire for a long time.

But there is so much money at stake these days.

The end of a golden era in men’s tennis is nearing, and revenues aren’t growing at quite the pace they had been. With Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in their 30s now and no guarantee the men’s game is Big Three recession-proof, the stakes are higher.

The question on the players’ side – as it generally is when it comes to Gimelstob, who admits he’s a polarizing figure – is whether the good that he does for them outweighs the bad caused by fallout from the American’s actions last Oct. 31.

A Player Council vote on May 14 in Rome, which will determine whether Gimelstob serves another three-year term as the Americas representative on the ATP Board, will go a long way towards answering that question.