ESPN's Outside The Lines is reporting today that the head of security for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2001 has at the same time continued working as a high-ranking law enforcement officer in the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office. This sure looks like a potential conflict of interest, and ESPN's Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada lay out several detailed examples where that seemed to happen. It also might explain why Lt. Jack Kearney's nickname in certain circles, ESPN reports, is "The Cleaner."
One example is Kearney's involvement after Steelers offensive tackle Mike Adams was stabbed last year outside a
Colombian Cambodian restaurant in Pittsburgh. One officer on the scene, Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, tried multiple times to contact Kearney until he reached him on his home phone. Kearney would later testify that he thought he was the first person contacted by police.
Shortly after he was stabbed, Adams told police he had been minding his own business, standing near his truck on the crowded street after eating a sandwich, when three men surrounded him. One asked if the truck belonged to him, Adams said. Another remarked: "I should shoot you." When he turned around, Adams said, one of the men stabbed him in the stomach.
After his two-hour meeting with Kearney at the hospital, Adams' story changed.
When detectives investigating the case arrived that afternoon, Adams said one of the men had pulled a gun out of his waistband, pointed it at his head and said, "I want your car or I will shoot you in the face and kill you in front of all these people." Another man punched him in the face, Adams told the detectives. A third man stabbed him before all three men fled.
That change meant the crime happened inside the truck, which Kearney had moved to the Steelers' practice facility. Kearney later became an active part of the case because he also leads the sheriff's fugitive squads and pursued one of the three men charged (though he was later captured in Florida by the U.S. Marshals). The three men charged were acquitted of all major charges, ESPN reported, and one of the men, Dquay Means, is suing Adams for "malicious prosecution." Means spent 11 months in jail awaiting his trial.
Then there's the time the U.S. Marshals asked for help arresting a Steelers player. In 2007, investigators had an arrest warrant for linebacker Richard Seigler, who was suspected of running a Las Vegas prostitution ring (charges were later dropped).
The marshals contacted the Steelers to arrange Seigler's arrest at the team's training facility, Gallagher said. A team public relations staffer notified Kearney, even though the marshals had advised that staffer "not to disclose this information to anyone," [Allegheny County Sheriff William P.] Mullen wrote to "Outside the Lines," citing the marshals' arrest report.
The following morning — despite the arrangement — Seigler was nowhere to be found. Kearney gave the marshals Seigler's address, Mullen wrote, but a daylong stakeout yielded nothing. Kearney then provided the marshals with another address in the same apartment complex and Seigler — with Kearney present — was taken into custody.
Gallagher said some marshals believed the Steelers, instead of following the agreement, had tipped off Seigler, turning what was lined up to be an easy arrest into a daylong search that required additional resources and manpower.
"Initially, we reached out to the Steelers organization and we just wanted to pick him up over at the training facility or whatever was easiest, just arrange the arrest," said Gallagher. "Someone within the organization contacted Seigler, and he never reported over to the organization on that day."
... A Sheriff's Office investigation "found that Lieutenant Kearney did not give preferential treatment to Richard Seigler," Mullen wrote.
In 2008, Kearney gave advice to Steelers wide receiver Cedrick Wilson when his girlfriend fired two shots into a wall and had a standoff with police. Wilson wasn't home at the time. He told ESPN, "Jack pretty much advised me to come back, like this was an issue of mine that needed to be dealt with." Kearney got involved again, two months later, when Wilson confronted the woman at a Mexican restaurant.
Police said he punched her off of a barstool; she later said she was merely pushed. The Steelers cut him within hours of the incident. That night, according to two sources, Kearney tried to contain the damage by asking people familiar with the incident not to divulge that Wilson had been with other Steelers players before the incident occurred. Attorney Michael DeRiso, who represented Wilson's girlfriend, confirmed that Kearney contacted him between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., but declined to say what they discussed.
He also has expedited weapon's permits for players, cutting down their wait time from two weeks to 15 minutes, ESPN reports. As described by Gail Carter, a retired deputy who oversaw the permitting process for the sheriff's office for several years, the expedited process for Steelers players shows the advantages they gained by being aligned with a lieutenant.
By calling ahead and ushering the players through, Kearney would reduce their wait times from as much as two weeks to about 15 minutes, Carter said, adding that she still conducted background checks on the players, who paid for the permits. The presence of Steelers players stirred up excitement around the office, but Carter said she and her colleagues were also sometimes resentful because the players usually arrived at the end of their shift, forcing them to stay longer.
"Jack was a lieutenant, so if he told me to do something, I wasn't gonna say no," Carter said. "You did what he told you to do."
Sheriff's deputies are prohibited from holding off-duty jobs with "any potential conflict-of-interest," according to ESPN. And these sound like conflicts of interest, right? Not according to Kearney's boss, Sheriff William P. Mullen: "Unless facts and circumstances exist to the contrary, which are completely unknown to me, there is no reason for me to believe Lieutenant Kearney permits his secondary employment to affect his performance as an Allegheny County Sheriff's Office employee."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello didn't address the issue, saying "team security resources are a team matter." The Steelers declined to let president Art Rooney II be interviewed, saying in a statement: "We are not aware of any conflicts in regard to his time on Steelers matters, nor are we aware of any conflicts of interest." Kearney declined to comment.
The rank and file might feel differently. One veteran deputy, who asked he not be named for fear of retribution, called Kearney "a guy who comes and goes as he pleased." The deputy added: "He'll tell people to handle something, then disappear on Steeler business."
Image via Associated Press