The NFL failed to investigate the Ray Rice case properly, according to former FBI director Robert S. Mueller, who also said in a report that he found no evidence the league received a video of the Baltimore Ravens running back knocking out his fiancee on a casino elevator.
“The NFL should have done more with the information it had and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the Feb. 15 incident,” Mueller III said in a statement after releasing his 96-page report.
Mueller said he can find no evidence the league received the video showing Rice striking his fiancee before it was published online in September. A law enforcement official showed The Associated Press videos of the incident in September and said he mailed a DVD to NFL headquarters in April.
The report said a review of phone records and emails of NFL employees showed no evidence that anyone in the league had seen the video before commissioner Roger Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games.
The private investigation, without subpoena power, did not include any contact with the law enforcement official who showed The Associated Press the videos. The officer played a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number dated April 9, in which a woman verifies receipt of the DVD and says: “You’re right, it’s terrible.”
The official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to share the evidence, said he took steps to avoid being found or identified by the NFL.
Mueller found the NFL’s deference to the law enforcement process involving Rice “led to deficiencies in the league’s collection and analysis of information during its investigation.” He added such an approach “can foster an environment in which it is less important to understand precisely what a player did than to understand how and when the criminal justice system addresses the event.”
Mueller’s report details some of the efforts the NFL made in obtaining the video, but said the league should have taken additional steps to find out what happened inside the elevator.
“League investigators did not contact any of the police officers who investigated the incident, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, or the Revel to attempt to obtain or view the in-elevator video or to obtain other information,” the report said. “No one from the league asked Rice or his lawyer whether they would make available for viewing the in-elevator video they received as part of criminal discovery in early April.”
The report also said the league didn’t follow up on initial conversations with the Ravens to determine whether the team had more information.
The official showed The Associated Press multiple videos from the casino the night Rice was arrested. Those videos included security cameras from inside and outside the elevator and two cellphone videos that included some audio.
The league said it considered the video published by TMZ.com in September to be new evidence meriting an indefinite suspension. Its emergence drew renewed backlash to the league from women’s organizations, members of Congress and players — all calling for more detail on how the NFL handled the case.
Giants owner John Mara and Steelers President Art Rooney, the men appointed by Goodell as liaison’s to the investigation, said Mueller made six recommendations that the owners will review. Rooney and Mara discussed the report’s recommendations with Goodell on Thursday.
Rooney and Mara agreed that the league’s policy on domestic violence was insufficient.
“We were slow to react, and in the case of Ray Rice, the original punishment was insufficient,” their statement said. “In addition, the steps taken by the NFL to investigate this matter were inadequate. Since then, a new policy concerning domestic violence and other rules for conduct violations have been put into place.”
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