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NFL-Backed Investigation: NFL Didn't Lie About Seeing Ray Rice Tape

Illustration for article titled NFL-Backed Investigation: NFL Didn't Lie About Seeing Ray Rice Tape

Former FBI director Robert Mueller's investigation into the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice case has been released. We're still reading through it, but the report's big conclusion so far is that despite an Associated Press report claiming that the NFL had received a tape showing Ray Rice knocking out Janay Palmer inside of an elevator in April, the NFL never saw the tape before it became public in September

From a press release summarizing the report:

"We found no evidence that anyone at the NFL had or saw the in-elevator video before it was publicly shown. We also found no evidence that a woman at the NFL acknowledged receipt of that video in a voicemail message on April 9, 2014.

"We concluded there was substantial information about the incident– even without the in-elevator video–indicating the need for a more thorough investigation. The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident."


We'll update as we make our way through it. So far, here's what we've found:

A lot of people working at the casino wanted to see the video pretty soon after it happened.

The video of Rice striking Palmer attracted substantial interest amongst Revel employees on the night of the incident and for several days after. One employee in the Security Operations monitoring room jokingly remarked that TMZ would pay a lot for the video. The exported file of the video remained for several days on a server accessible to Revel Security Operations personnel who were authorized to enter the monitoring room. One employee estimated that 35 to 40 people (of whom 13 had law-enforcement experience) had access to the room and the video until access was restricted on approximately February 19, as described further below.

The AP did not give any information about its source.

We did, however, ask for the phone number of the law-enforcement source's disposable cellphone and access to the voicemail message reportedly left by the female caller.7 The Associated Press declined. We also offered the Associated Press an opportunity to search our telephone data for any portion of the source's disposable cellphone number. The Associated Press declined that offer as well.


So what did Mueller learn about the video and that AP report? Mueller lays out all sorts of analysis done on emails, computers, and phone records, but says they turned up nothing that suggested someone with the league saw the video. The phone number that was shown to the AP was the general number from the NFL's headquarters, which usually pops up no matter the extension calling. AP refused to give investigators the number of the phone used by its source to receive the call. Meuller said his team analyzed phone records from around the time that the AP reported the call happened—but every phone number was accounted for.

We created a database of all 1,583 outgoing calls to 1,050 unique telephone numbers from the League's office on April 9. We first excluded numbers contained in the 2014 NFL Blue Book—a phone directory that lists senior NFL employees as well as owners, coaches, and employees of the 32 NFL teams. There were 143 such calls to 112 unique telephone numbers. We then researched and ultimately called the remaining 938 numbers, regardless of the length of the call, to identify each recipient. As part of that effort, we asked each League employee from whose extension calls were placed to identify the numbers he or she had called. The employees identified NFL vendors, former players, nearby restaurants, doctors' offices, family members, and the like. Finally, we validated that information by calling each person or entity identified.


In interviews, nobody admitted to receiving the call. The investigators set up an anonymous tip line that got no calls. The Mueller report notes that Atlantic City police also "declined to make its employees available for interview or to respond to our written questions," the report said.

Going back to when this first started, possibly the first people to tell the NFL about Rice knocking out his future wife was New Jersey's state police. A day after it happened, the NFL got an email from the New Jersey State Police, who had heard about it from a reporter. The police included the information they got from the reporter in an email to league spokesman Brian McCarthy. McCarthy sent it to Jeffrey Miller, senior vice president of security, and Miller sent it to the director of investigative services and the security representative assigned to the Ravens/Baltimore area.

On Sunday, February 16, a member of the New Jersey State Police ("NJSP") sent an email to Brian McCarthy, Vice President of Corporate Communications at the NFL, as well as to NJSP officials, about a request by a Baltimore Sun reporter for information about Rice's arrest at the Revel. McCarthy promptly forwarded that email to Miller, copying other NFL officials.11 The email to McCarthy on February 16 appears to be the first notice the League received of the incident.

The email stated that Aaron Wilson, a reporter from the Baltimore Sun, had contacted NJSP about Rice's arrest. Attached to the email was a write-up by Wilson. The write-up stated that Wilson "[s]poke to the guy who called the newsroom. He said he works for casino security at Revel." The write-up quoted the source's account of the assault: "It was horrific. It shocked the conscience. He knocked her out with one punch. She was out for three minutes. He dragged her out like a limp noodle. He hit her so hard. It was unbelievable. We gave her ice packs for her head." The write-up also stated that the source "described a Ravens team security guy" as being with Rice. The write-up contained specific details about Rice and Palmer, including their full names, address, and dates of birth, information that was contained in the Revel's incident report.


How hard did the NFL try to get information from local law enforcement? They called Atlantic City police, who told them that any everything in the police report would be redacted. The records supervisor suggested reaching out to the Atlantic City Solicitor's Office for more information. James Buckley, the security representative for the New York Giants/New Jersey area, called the solicitor's office, left a voicemail, which wasn't returned and that's the end of that narrative until TMZ releases the tape. The report also says that "at some point prior to February 19" Ravens security director Darren Sanders called the Revel and learned about the elevator tape's existence, but the casino wouldn't give him a copy.

On Feb. 20, director of investigative services John Raucci emailed Buckley asking him to get more details, adding "The public reporting and 'press accounts' are crushing us ... " Buckley said he would contact Revel security about any cameras inside the elevators, but didn't follow through with that. Instead, he asked a confidential source to investigate, who "reported that the elevators at the Revel did have cameras inside the elevator cabs."


That same day, Miller had a previously scheduled luncheon with "senior officials" from the state police whom the league had worked with leading up to the Super Bowl. Miller said he asked these officials if they could confirm the existence of video from inside the elevator. And what did the "senior officials" respond with? Here's all the report says on that front:

There is a dispute about what Miller said at the luncheon, but there is no dispute that Miller did not obtain information as a result of any request made during the luncheon.


Finally, someone gets a description of what's on the tape—the Ravens. Sanders talked to Atlantic City police Lt. Rodney Ruark sometime in mid- to late-February and took notes, which described the video this way:

Shows Ray walking away from Janay from restaurant ahead of her by 30 yards, her following. Both are seen arguing in hallway. Janay appears to spit on Ray and to slap him. Ray pushes her away and walks away. Argue at elevators, Ray appears to spit on her, she elbows him, then spits on him. She walks away and then reappears, slapping at him. She enters elevators first with him behind her. He slaps/punches her, she spits on him and punches at him, he slaps/punches her again causing her to fall striking her head against the wall, going 'unconscious.' He stands over her for a brief moment then tries to drag her off the elevator.


Sanders goes on to brief general manager Ozzie Newsome, president Richard Cass, and coach John Harbaugh. Ravens officials got another dose of information about what's on the video after Rice's lawyer gets a copy. Michael Diamondstein talked to Cass about it April or May and "both agree that Diamondstein told Cass the content was 'terrible.'" None of this information appears to be relayed to league officials.

From March to May, the league's investigation consisted of basically reading articles.

The League's investigation of the Rice incident between March and May consisted of Buckley monitoring developments in the ongoing criminal proceeding against Rice by reviewing public news articles. He did not perform any additional investigative steps, nor was he instructed by the League to seek additional information.


In June, Buckley makes a few more calls and requests, but doesn't get a huge amount of new information for the league. After that, the report doesn't discuss the actual investigation much at all, instead focusing on the punishment, the elevator video that came out, and what the AP reported. You can read the entire report below.

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