Matt Petgrave Could Face Manslaughter Charge After Inquest—Legal Analyst


One lawyer believes hockey player Matt Petgrave could face criminal charges after colliding with an opposition player who later died.

Adam Johnson, 29, died after a “freak” accident in which his neck was cut by Petgrave’s skate during a game in England on October 28.

Johnson, a former NHL forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was playing with the Nottingham Panthers against Petgrave’s Sheffield Steelers in the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) when he collapsed in the 35th minute of the game.

Matt Petgrave of the Owen Sound Attack in a game against the London Knights on February 25, 2011 in London, Canada. He was involved in a collision that led to the death of opposition player, Adam Johnson.
Claus Andersen/Getty Images North America

A coronial inquest began on Friday in Sheffield in northern England to investigate the cause of death.

But one U.S. trained criminal lawyer thinks the inquest will find Petgrave should face manslaughter charges for his role in the incident.

“I watched the Adam Johnson video. To a casual observer, it looks like Matt Petgrave purposefully kicked him in the throat. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if after the inquest he is charged with manslaughter of some kind,” wrote Lexie Rigden on X, formerly Twitter.

Rigden, a regular Fox News contributor, studied law in Florida and New Jersey, where she also passed the bar. She practices family law and also works as a criminal defense attorney.

Newsweek contacted Rigden by email for comment.

While she believed Petgrave could be charged with manslaughter, legal experts in England explained that was unlikely.

“For manslaughter you need either gross negligence—a really large departure from normal standards of care such as to justify criminal liability; or an unlawful and dangerous act—the latter only likely if for example there had be a pretty flagrant breach of the sport’s rules,” Nicola Lacey, professor of law, gender and social policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), told Newsweek in October.

“If it was really a ‘freak accident,’ neither of those tests would be met; and the CPS can only prosecute where there is a realistic chance of conviction,” she said.

Her LSE colleague, Jeremy Horder, also told Newsweek: “The position is that injuries caused in the course of an ordinary lawful sporting contest are within the bounds of ‘ordinary contact.’ Therefore, they do not give rise to liability even if they go against the rules of the game.

“However, very extreme recklessness, for example wearing deliberately extra sharpened boots, or something, or a deliberately inflicted injury of a serious kind might fall outside this exception, and fall to be dealt with like any other assault leading to a death. I am not aware that anything of this nature was involved in this case.”

South Yorkshire Police confirmed it was investigating the collision, but its research “will take some time” because it was an “unprecedented incident.”

The Panthers announced Johnson’s death on social media on Sunday, October 29.

“The Nottingham Panthers are truly devastated to announce that Adam Johnson has tragically passed away following a freak accident at the game in Sheffield last night,” the team announced in a statement.

“The Panthers would like to thank everyone who rushed to support Adam last night in the most testing of circumstances. Adam, our number 47, was not only an outstanding ice hockey player, but also a great teammate and an incredible person with his whole life ahead of him.”