No pictures. That’s what the biggest name in boxing, poised for one of the signature fights of his career, says over and over again when asked about the overwhelming evidence that he has a history of abusing women. Ignore the police reports, the court records, and his own plea deals, he says into the camera lens, never an ounce of doubt on his face, because there are no pictures. It’s a cliché of Internet life—pics or it didn’t happen—and one that Mayweather has leveraged into making it okay for millions of sports fans to plunk down $100 to watch him fight Manny Pacquiao without an ounce of doubt about putting money directly in the pocket of a misogynist.
To Rachel Nichols: “Once again, no pictures. Just hearsay and allegations.”
To Katie Couric: “Did I kick, stomp and beat someone? No, that didn’t happen. I look in your face and say, ‘No, that didn’t happen.’”
To Stephen A. Smith: “If I really did what they say I did, as far as beating a woman or stomping a woman, I’m Floyd Mayweather, they would have brought pictures out instantly. Still no pictures. No nothing.”
There are pictures, though. In at least two cases of domestic violence, official records show pictures were taken. In one case, a police report explicitly says that the photos show a victim’s injuries. But authorities in Las Vegas, a city poised to make millions off Floyd this weekend, have either destroyed the photos or haven’t released them.
When I first set out to get these pictures, I worried about what Deadspin would do if we got them. A month later, I haven’t seen a single image. Instead, I’ve gotten a crash course in how rules, regulations, and even old-fashioned “we’ll get back to you when we feel like it” attitudes keep the best evidence of Mayweather’s serial abuse of women under wraps.
Mayweather says “no pictures” and his adopted hometown, already raking in millions off of him, makes sure it stays that way. What happens in Vegas does stay in Vegas, especially if that’s good for Vegas. It’s by design. Here’s how.
Destroying the evidence
My first call was to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, which told me to try the court records. Las Vegas has two separate levels of court, district and justice, and Mayweather has kept them busy. His name turns up in 29 separate cases in justice court criminal records and another 16 times at the district level on a slew of issues ranging from illegal parking to breach of contract to domestic violence. Felony and misdemeanor cases start at the justice level, while felony cases eventually move up to district.
Just three cases involving accusations of violence against Mayweather have gone up to district court. In two of those cases, district court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price told me, no exhibits were submitted to the court. In the third case, six photographs were admitted.
What was on the photos isn’t said, but they’re from the case brought by prosecutors after Josie Harris told police Mayweather kicked and punched her inside his Bentley, then dragged her out by her hair. By the time the trial came around, Harris told a different story, saying she lied in her police report, and Mayweather was acquitted.
As for the photos, they’ve been destroyed.
Is that legal? In Nevada, absolutely. UNLV associate law professor Sara Gordon said that in Nevada criminal cases anyone involved in a criminal case can apply for an order asking that exhibits be released or destroyed. If they are acquitted (and Floyd was) they can apply immediately afterward. “In considering the application,” Gordon said, “the court considers whether the loss of the evidence would prejudice any parties in ongoing cases or in the event of a retrial, and whether there are any appeals pending in the case.”
In this case, the order for disposal came on Oct. 11, 2011, while another set of domestic violence charges against Floyd worked their way through the Las Vegas court system. In that case, once again Floyd was accused of beating Harris, this time while their young children watched. The request for disposal is half a page and signed by a district judge.
Records show that before the exhibits were destroyed, Mayweather’s Vegas lawyers, Richard A. Wright and Karen Winckler, asked that the exhibits be released to them, and district Judge Lisa Marie Bell approved their request. On Dec. 29, the clerk of the court filed a petition and order that the records be disposed of or destroyed because “the exhibits are believed by the Clerk to be of no value which would warrant their delivery to the Board of County Commissioners of Clark County, Nevada, as property of said County.” It was reviewed by a prosecutor and, on Jan. 23, 2012, signed off on by a district judge.
In February, the exhibits were certified as destroyed.
This was two months after Mayweather took a plea deal in his other domestic violence case. In that case, photos were taken, but nobody who has them in Vegas wants you to see them.
Locking the evidence away from the public
In the early hours of of Sept. 9, 2010, Harris found Mayweather inside her home, which Mayweather still owned despite their breakup. A fight about the house being a little messy devolved into Mayweather being upset that Harris was seeing another man, and Harris called the police, according to the report. Mayweather left, then came back about 5 a.m. with a friend. One of Mayweather’s children let him inside. Harris, asleep on the couch, woke up to Mayweather holding her phone and screaming, “Are you having sex with C.J.?” She answered yes, and the beating began—as their children watched.
Mayweather grabbed Harris by her hair and began striking her in the back of her head with a closed fist several times. Mayweather pulled Harris off the couch by her hair and twisted her left arm. Harris stated that Mayweather began yelling at Harris “I’m going to kill you and the man your are messing around with.” He also stated “Im going to have you both disappear.” Harris tried to fight him off of her, and she thought he was trying to break her arm by twisting it behind her back. Harris screamed for the kids to call the police or run to the security guard station. Mayweather turned to the kids and yelled at them that “He would beat their asses if they left the house or called the police.” The children were able to get out of the house and run to the security guard station.
The police report noted “[Officer] Schmidt also took digital photographs of Harris’ injuries and downloaded them into the LVMPD on-base system.”
One of Mayweather’s sons, Koraun, wrote a statement for police about what he saw that night. In the chunky writing of a child, Koraun describes watching his father pummel his mother and signs with the kind of signature usually saved for birthday cards or letters to Santa.
Despite the photos, Harris’s statement, and Koraun’s gripping account, this case never made it out of justice court. Before that could happen, Mayweather pleaded guilty to a reduced battery domestic violence charge and no contest to two harassment charges and got a 90-day jail sentence, which was delayed until after his Cinco de Mayo fight. Ultimately, Floyd didn’t even serve the full 90 days, instead getting out after two months thanks to good behavior.
Thanks to his early plea deal, any photos of Mayweather’s night of terror remain just one of 11 justice court case files that require a judge’s permission to fully unlock.
Releasing the files that don’t make Mayweather look too bad
To view an entire case file, and not just the selections deemed public, I was told I needed to file a motion for “disclosure of non-public information.” I filed 11 motions for all 11 justice court files that involved charges of violence or harassment and Mayweather. A judge says yes or no, deciding what of the non-public information will be released. Here is what I told the justice court, making it clear my concern was his violence toward women:
Floyd Mayweather is a public figure and important member of the Las Vegas community. He also has said publicly that there is no evidence of him hitting women. He told Rachel Nichols on CNN, “Once again, no pictures. Just hearsay and allegations. And I signed a plea-bargain. Once again, not true.” To show if he is telling the truth or not, it is important to review all of his case files.
So far I have received four files—and they mostly detail his violence toward men.
Within a week, and with relative ease, I got a file from a 2001 case in which Mayweather was charged with battery with use of a deadly weapon, but the file ends when Mayweather’s case is moved to district court, where the charge was dismissed, and the scant eight pages provided don’t even describe the events leading up to the battery or whom Mayweather hurt. The date of the incident it mentions, though—June 19, 2001—suggest it’s connected to when Mayweather was accused by a man of breaking a champagne bottle over his head at a Las Vegas night club.
I got the full complaint and only slightly redacted arrest report (three pages in total) from when Mayweather was accused in 2010 of jabbing a male security officer in the cheek. Mayweather pleaded no contest.
By far the lengthiest file I got—a full 18 pages—was from 2011, when Floyd was charged with two counts of misdemeanor harassment after threatening two security guards over parking tickets. The criminal complaint said Mayweather told them that his crew had guns and Mayweather would call them to come over and “take care of” them.” Mayweather was found not guilty, although not before Mayweather’s legal team offered a bizarre solution, one guard told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Would the guard want the case dismissed if in return Mayweather “apologized, shook his hand and gave him tickets to his next fight”? (He declined.)
The fourth case is the only one that involved a woman, and it’s possibly the most minor of all the accusations against Mayweather. It’s an old misdemeanor case—Mayweather was accused of grabbing a woman by the shirt and shaking her back and forth—from more than a decade ago. It was quickly dismissed when nobody, including the woman involved, showed up for the trial.
As for all those other files, I got an email on April 9 asking me to clarify my request on three files, so I narrowed what I wanted to any documentation, photographs, or evidence that showed Mayweather’s violence toward women. If evidence had been destroyed, I also asked for copies of the documentation showing the destruction.
Today, I called and emailed the justice court staff attorney asking for an update. Before justice court closed, all I got was an update on one case, saying the file would cost $485.50.
Tommasino suggested a narrow request could be filled faster, so I resent him what I had sent another member of the legal staff on April 9. Before the close of justice court at 4 p.m. PST today, I hadn’t heard back.
Las Vegas police give the full runaround
I reached out to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office a second time, this time with a formal written request for any photos. They responded that the “legal custodian” of the photographs was the Las Vegas police department. I already had sent the police department an email asking for “copies of any photos taken or collected as part of the various battery, stalking, harassment, and coercion investigations involving Floyd Mayweather.” My request asked that the police department get back to me by email or phone if they had any questions or needed more information to fulfill my request.
I didn’t hear back for a week, so I called and asked what had happened to my request. I was told by the public information office that they needed more information to process it. When I asked why nobody had told me this earlier (my email explicitly said to reach to me if they needed more information) the response was that they hadn’t gotten to my request yet.
The next day, Friday, I sent them a list with every detail for every case that I knew of involving Mayweather and accusations of violence involving women. It included names of victims, birthdates, locations, court case numbers, and in one case the police report number as well.
I didn’t hear back, so I called Monday and left a message. This was the response I got from Officer Jesse Roybal. (It should be noted that I gave Las Vegas police the same type of information I’ve used to request police files across the country.)
Good afternoon. Unfortunately these numbers refer to the court case. We do not track our reports through this system. We track our reports via an LVMPD event number. I am not sure if we will be able to locate the reports. I will see what we can find out, however if you are able to help us we will try and track down the events. Thank you.
Perhaps he didn’t notice that in one case I did include the police report number, or that I included names, dates, and locations, which also can be used by agencies to locate cases.
So I wrote back, asking what other information he needed and offering to send along press reports from some of the more high-profile arrests.
That got me this response:
Good afternoon. I have some of my records researchers attempting to locate these reports at this time. I do not know how long it will take to locate them.
I wrote explaining that all I was looking for was photographs or images, not the reports. I checked in again the next day and was told Roybal was “still trying to track down these events.” He asked me to check in with the Clark County District Attorney or Las Vegas City Attorney because “they may have the photos accessible already.”
Of course, I had already checked in with the district attorney’s office, and they were the ones who sent me to the police. I wrote back saying I had already tried that route and offered to narrow it down to two cases which I knew were very high-profile and had pictures. My email back included the name of the victim, her birthdate, the approximate time of the beating, and a copy of the the 2010 police report that detailed what happened and noted that pictures had been taken.
This was the response:
Good afternoon. Regarding your request for photos, we are unable to fulfill this request. There are retention periods where some of these events would not be accessible due to policy concerning the retention period. Further, due to the intimate nature of the photos, in addition to the privacy and evidentiary nature of the photos, they will not be released. Any photos that were entered into evidence during an open court proceeding can be attempted to be released by contacting the court of jurisdiction. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
In other words, I need to get them from the courts—the same courts that have either destroyed the photos or still haven’t decided if I can see the full case files. So that’s how this works.
Victims with conflicting interests
There are other custodians of the images showing the horror Mayweather inflicts: the women he beats. The most candid is Harris, who has given several interviews over the years. In a recent article, Harris said she has photographs of the damage Mayweather inflicted, but won’t release them because, she told Brandon Sneed, she doesn’t want to hurt him.
She doesn’t want to hurt Mayweather, to make him suffer any more than she thinks he already does. She could. She has pictures of what his abuse has done to her, but she hasn’t released them, for some of the same reasons she has lied for him, which she did many times after many assaults over many years—protecting him from the police, keep him out of prison, trying to save him.
“I don’t think that somebody who loves themselves correctly abuses other people,” she says. “Because loving somebody—the most important part is loving yourself first, right?”
This is perhaps the cruelest part of the victims Mayweather chooses. They’re mostly women who have emotional relationships with him, sometimes even children with him. They still care for him, despite the bruises, concussions, and death threats, because domestic violence is a cycle of power and control that is difficult to escape. Like many domestic abusers, Mayweather wins them back with apologies, lavish gifts, and promises he’ll never do it again—taking advantage of his power and control over them—and then hits them again.
The same feelings that make it so hard to break out of an abusive relationship make it hard to release the surest proof that Mayweather beats women. It’s easy to throw everything you have at a stranger on the street who slugs you in the face. It’s not easy to do the same with the father of your children.
Las Vegas was built to do this
Somehow, this whole tragedy makes sense once the context comes into consideration. The sun-baked desert dream machine of Las Vegas, a city built into a modern paradise by the mob, was once an “open city” for all family members; today it’s just as open—or conveniently closed—for the likes of Mayweather. His biggest-ever fight is pouring dollars into the city ravaged by foreclosures just a few years ago. Few have any interest in turning off the tap.
The idea of an American city bending over backward for quick and easy cash isn’t new. What’s special about Las Vegas is the openness with which it happens, as if this is just how business is done. In 2006, the Los Angeles Times outlined a “stacked judicial deck” in the city, thick with cronyism and conflicts of interest, where big donations by lawyers equate to favorable rulings from judges. A ballot initiative that hoped to fix this failed. More recently, the city has been the home of right-wing sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson, whose company might have bribed foreign officials.
And a justice of the peace can be openly swayed to delay a man’s sentence, despite multiple allegations of abuse, because his fights make money. As the Associated Press explained in 2012:
[Justice of the peace Melissa] Saragosa said she was swayed by the last-minute plea from Mayweather’s lawyer, Richard Wright, to let Mayweather postpone jail time so he can train to fight on the May 5 date his promoters promised months ago to pay-per-view television and the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Wright said Mayweather wasn’t trying to avoid the sentence, and emphasized the potential economic benefit of attracting fight fans and hotel guests to Las Vegas for a Mayweather fight. The lawyer estimated that Mayweather’s last seven fights in Las Vegas generated a combined $1 billion in business to the community. He projected the economic boost from a May 5 fight at more than $100 million.
The projected pot from Mayweather’s upcoming battle is even greater. Marquee hotels have jacked up their prices. Las Vegas sports books are so awash in bets that a $200,000 straight wager on either boxer can be taken without managerial approval. Even a cab driver picking up people at the airport told sports writer Jerry Izenberg that he felt the difference.
“The summer was lousy. I don’t know where you are from but if you got money, this town needs you. You do have money? The gas thing killed us in June and July with those people who used to drive over from L.A. With the big auto workers and steel people layoffs back East, forget the blue-collar trade. You can even forget those school teachers from Iowa.”
“So the fight means a lot?” I asked him.
“The fight means everything.”
And of course all the brisk business is good for the Nevada Athletic Commission, which collects six percent tax on gross tickets sales to boxing and mixed martial arts events. Earlier this month, a Nevada state lawmaker asked to raise the tax from six to eight percent.
Why there will probably never be pictures
We shouldn’t need to see the pictures. The overwhelming evidence should be enough. The guilty and no contest pleas should be enough. The words of so many women should be enough. But seeing pictures—in all their grotesqueness and horror—is unfortunately the only way to prove a man hit a woman. It’s part of why officers take these pictures, to show a judge and a jury what happened.
“When you’re in a front of a judge, you describe the injuries written in the complaint, the bruising, the swelling, the blood,” prosecutor Scott E. Kessler told the New York Times for a 2007 story about how digital cameras were changing domestic violence investigations. “But until a person sees another human being with those injuries, with the swelling, the blood, the bruising, it’s hard to get that point across.”
He was proven right last year, when TMZ published the video of Ray Rice knocking out his future wife, Janay, with one swift punch. Before the video was published, Rice was poised to return to football after a short suspension. Afterward, Rice was gone for an entire season and dumped by his team. He’s still searching for a chance to play.
There has been no elevator-tape moment for Mayweather, though, despite his long and well-documented history of beating up women, and there probably never will be.
Las Vegas has made sure of it.
Image via Getty