NFL’s outside lawyer calls evidence against Saints players “quite strong”
On Wednesday, the NFL advised its teams that former prosecutor Mary Jo White has been retained to provide an independent review of the bounty evidence. On Thursday, the NFL made White available to the media.
White, who was retained by the NFL but who described her work as an “independent review” of the process, said that she has reviewed all evidence and that the factual basis for the punishments imposed against the players is “quite strong.” She also described the overall process as “thorough, fair, and robust.”
White characterized the punishments as arising from “very strong corroborating evidence,” both from “multiple, independent first-hand accounts” and the 18,000 documents gathered.
White also pointed out that the individuals who provided information will have their identity kept secret in order to ensure that they will not face retaliation, a noble and appropriate goal with which Jeremy Shockey would surely agree. Still, when pressed on whether the yet-unnamed persons will testify at the appeal hearings or whether the specific names have been given to the NFLPA and the accused players so that they may prepare an adequate defense, White tiptoed through the words in the way that lawyers so often do, declining ultimately to say that the people will testify or that their names have been or will be given to the NFLPA or the accused players.
And so it appears that, for now, only general summaries and characterizations of the information have been provided to the NFLPA. If the players are going to mount any type of a meaningful defense, that’s not good enough.
Yes, folks who cooperated with the investigation must be protected from retaliation. Otherwise, no one will cooperate in the future. But this isn’t some third-world country where folks testify behind a curtain. If the available procedures are going to have any value, the people who are making the allegations need to put their names to their words -- especially if the accused players are claiming (as two of them are) that the evidence is false.
Without those fundamental protections, anyone can accuse anyone else of anything.
The league is preparing a full transcript of the conference call with Mary Jo White. I’ll scour it for anything else worth mentioning. For now, the thing that struck me as most significant is the fact that the NFL hasn’t, and possibly won’t, give the players full information regarding the persons who have accused them of participating in a bounty program.