NFL received Rice video in April, report says

September 10, 2014|By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun

Questions surrounding when the NFL and the Ravens saw video of Ray Rice punching his fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator intensified on Wednesday following a report that a law enforcement official sent the graphic footage to a league executive in April.

According to the Associated Press, which cites an anonymous law enforcement official and doesn't name the NFL executive, a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number was played for the wire service on April 9 confirming receipt of the video. In the message, a female voice thanks the official and says: "You're right. It's terrible."

Wednesday night commissioner Roger Goodell announced that former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III will conduct an independent investigation of the Ray Rice incident.

Goodell this week repeatedly has asserted that the league had not seen the video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, until celebrity gossip website TMZ posted it on Monday. Minutes after the AP's report was published, the league issued a swift rebuttal.

"We have no knowledge of this," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to The Baltimore Sun. "We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it."

In a letter to season-ticket holders sent on Tuesday, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team didn't see the video until Monday. Rice was indefinitely suspended by the NFL on Monday and his $35 million contract was terminated.

The law enforcement official told the AP he could not confirm if anyone from the NFL watched the video and said he shared it because he wanted the league to have that information prior to disciplining Rice. The former Ravens running back in July was suspended for two games, which drew widespread criticism.

The league then increased penalties for domestic violence offenses to six games for a first offense and a potential lifetime ban with the possibility of reinstatement after a year for a second offense.

ESPN reported on Wednesday that Revel Casino security staff said they watched the video numerous times that showed Rice spitting in Palmer's face twice before the exchange that ended with Rice punching her.

On Wednesday, Goodell wrote a memo to NFL chief executives and club presidents — obtained by The Baltimore Sun — that details the league's investigation of Rice, which was resolved legally when New Jersey prosecutors accepted the former Rutgers star into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and required him to continue couple counseling with his now-wife, go to anger management classes and remain out of trouble for a year.

Goodell stressed that the league "did not see video of what took place inside the elevator until it was publicly released on Monday. When the new video evidence became available, we acted promptly and imposed an indefinite suspension on Mr. Rice. On multiple occasions, we asked we asked the proper law enforcement authorities to share with us all relevant information, including any video of the incident. Those requests were made to different law enforcement entities, including the New Jersey State Police, the Atlantic City Police Department, the Atlantic County Police Department and the Atlantic County Solicitor's Office."

Goodell wrote that those requests were made after Rice was arrested in February and again after he was accepted into the court diversion program.

"None of the law enforcement entities we approached was permitted to provide any video or other investigatory material to us." Goodell wrote.

On Tuesday, the New Jersey Attorney General's office issued a statement saying: "It would have been illegal for law enforcement to provide [the] Rice video to [the] NFL."

Goodell said the NFL did not directly ask Revel Casino, which has since gone bankrupt and closed, for the video. The memo from Goodell doesn't say if the NFL tried to obtain the video from Rice's attorney, Michael Diamondstein, who was provided the footage as part of the standard discovery process.

Meanwhile, a dozen members of Congress demanded the NFL be as transparent as possible.

"Our professional sports leagues are important economic and cultural institutions in the United States," said the letter, signed by 12 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. "We are interested in the manner in which these leagues handle incidences of domestic violence by their players, owners and other employees. ... Given the important role the NFL and the other major professional sports leagues can play in shaping public perceptions concerning domestic violence, it would appear to be in the public interest to have the highest level of transparency associated with reviews of potential misconduct.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of three U.S. senators who sent letters to the Ravens and the NFL calling Rice's initial two-game suspension "plainly inadequate" in July, released a statement Wednesday after the new report: "The current leadership of the NFL cannot be trusted to fairly, genuinely implement policies that address domestic violence. … If these allegations are true, Roger Goodell is part of the problem, and he is incapable of achieving a real solution."

awilson@baltsun.com

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