The NFL says it has “no knowledge” of anyone in its offices receiving a copy of the now infamous Ray Rice video in April, as a law enforcement official claimed in a report the Associated Press published Wednesday.
“We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports. “We will look into it.”
NFL Security had begun looking into the matter by Wednesday night, Aiello confirmed.
Since the video of Rice punching his then-fiancée was posted Monday on TMZ, the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell — who suspended Rice indefinitely — have been adamant they didn’t see the violent images until this week.
But a law enforcement official told the Associated Press he sent a video of Rice punching Janay Palmer, now Rice’s wife, to an NFL executive five months ago. The law enforcement official also played the AP a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”
The official, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, says the NFL never followed up. The person can’t confirm if anyone at the NFL watched the video. The person said he shared the video — which he was unauthorized to release — because he wanted the NFL to have it before deciding on Rice’s punishment.
The report came on another day filled with scrutiny for the league and Goodell, who sent a memo to the NFL’s 32 teams saying the league asked law enforcement for the video, but not the Atlantic City casino where the incident involving Rice took place.
Congress probes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Ray Rice case
A group of congressmen sent a letter to Goodell demanding “the highest level of transparency” in how the league investigated the Rice situation. The National Organization for Women called for Goodell’s resignation. Multiple owners released statements, including New York Giants owner John Mara, who called the notion that Goodell’s job is in jeopardy “misguided.”
Two people with close ties to NFL ownership, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, told USA TODAY Sports no call had taken place with the 32 owners to discuss the handling of the Rice case.
Goodell was in Charlotte on Wednesday to present an award to Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. Aiello said he believed that appearance no longer was scheduled.
Baltimore Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne told USA TODAY Sports the team requested a copy of the video from Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein. But a person familiar with the matter told USA TODAY Sports neither the Ravens nor the NFL requested a copy of the video from Diamondstein, who was provided a DVD copy of the video as part of discovery.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.
In May, Rice was allowed to enter a pretrial diversion program that will dismiss the third-degree aggravated assault charge against him upon completion. The Ravens stood by him for months, despite an initial video that circulated of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator.
That ended Monday, when the second video came out, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.
Roger Goodell’s letter to NFL chief executives and club presidents
In a Tuesday night interview with USA TODAY Sports, Goodell called the video “sickening” and said it didn’t match the story Rice told the league before he initially was suspended two games — a short ban that drew intense public criticism and led Goodell to announce an enhanced personal conduct policy with stiffer discipline for domestic violence and sexual assault.
As for the tape, Goodell said the league “asked for it on multiple occasions. We asked law enforcement and they were not willing to provide it. I think they were under some legal requirements not to provide it, as I understand it.”
Goodell expanded on that in his memo to owners Wednesday: “Our understanding of New Jersey law is that casino security is regulated by the Division of Gaming Enforcement in the State Attorney General’s office. Once a criminal investigation begins, law enforcement authorities do not share investigatory material (such as the videos here) with private parties such as the NFL.
“In addition, the state’s Open Public Records Act excludes material that is generated in the context of an active law enforcement proceeding. The law enforcement agencies did nothing wrong here; they simply followed their customary procedures. As the New Jersey Attorney General’s office said yesterday, “It would have been illegal for law enforcement to provide (the) Rice video to (the) NFL.”
Giants owner John Mara: Notion Roger Goodell’s job in jeopardy ‘misguided’
The video, shown to the AP on Monday, is slightly longer than the TMZ version, and includes some audio.
Rice and Janay Palmer — now Janay Rice — can be heard shouting obscenities at each other, and she appears to spit at Rice right before he throws a brutal punch. After she collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. One of them can be heard saying, “She’s drunk, right?” And then, “No cops.”
Rice had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record. A prominent New Jersey lawmaker called Tuesday for that decision to be reviewed.
Contributing: Josh Peter, The Associated Press
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