The sports news media has been obsessed with the incident and the question of how long of a suspension Artest, aka Metta World Peace, would face from the NBA. He was suspended for 7 games. There has been little or no talk about criminal prosecution (see Bleacher Report for an argument about how Harden could sue Artest), but there should be. What Artest did qualifies as "battery" under California Penal Code Section 242:
A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.Under §243(a), the maximum sentence would normally be $2000 and 6 months in jail. But §243(d) provides for up to one year and possibly longer:
When a battery is committed against any person and serious bodily injury is inflicted on the person, the battery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, three, or four years.The serious bodily injury standard applies. Harden appeared to suffer a brief loss of consciousness and was diagnosed with a concussion. The impairment to his physical condition was serious enough to cause him to leave the game and miss subsequent games.
As a criminal defense attorney I've seen people prosecuted for far less than what Artest did. The Los Angeles District Attorney should step up to the plate and hold him accountable.
The NBA's 7-game suspension is pathetic, especially in light of his violent history.