Robert Bianchi provides his legal analysis about the Ray Rice Domestic Violence Allegations and his appeal to be reinstated to play in the NFL.
By Robert A. Bianchi, Esq.: Roger Goodell is the NFL Commissioner and has a tough job to be sure. But, I have to ask what his legal and media team were thinking in all of this. As a former New Jersey County Prosecutor who has dealt with the media in legal matters for years, I feel Mr. Goodell was ill-served and it was an embarrassment to the NFL and him personally.
In the Ray Rice case, Goodell’s team investigated the allegations (and not well I may add). This investigation was either done without any real concern or effort, or more likely, by attorneys who have little investigative or media experience. Nevertheless, Goodell issued a suspension to Rice and the matter seemed quieted. But then the infamous video appeared. Goodell stated that somehow the video showed conduct that he felt was not known to him (or that Rice failed to disclose during the investigation) when issuing the initial suspension and led him to then increase the penalties to Rice. But, that is an unbelievable statement considering the NFL had all the opportunity to ask Rice questions and had numerous other investigative leads they could have explored, but neglected to do.
I read some of what was asked during the investigation and was provided in written notes only, and it was “amateur hour.” Any skilled attorney would have been asking as we do in court every day the nature and quality of the assault. The questioning was sophomoric, simplistic, and poorly done. Rice appealed Goodell’s additional sentence as being “double” punishment for the same offense and disputed that he was not forthcoming with information and answered all questions fairly, truthfully, and accurately. Of course, the problem here is that the questioning was weak and infirm, not done in a skilled way, and subject to dispute as those in attendance had different notes on what was said. Wow!
This debacle of an investigation is surprising given the resources at the NFL’s disposal and the media nightmare it caused for them, which they should have known was in the making. I think the entire thing can be summed up by the fact that they did not even record statements. How can it be in today’s age that they did not do this? This is a basic thing. It is unreal that they had to turn to notes that contradicted each other in the most important area of the case–the assault. Who was in charge of this “investigation” that they would not know to record statements? It is really quite unbelievable. Now, I don’t know if this was to sweep all of this under the rug, or not. But, common sense would have shown them that the media was all over this, and that this needed to be done right, and that they needed experienced legal and media experts, so that at the end of the day, the investigation would not be subject to ridicule. In a case like this, the integrity of the investigation is as important as the subject matter being investigated. They should have conducted an investigation that was unassailable, and done by people that have reputations, experience, and credentials in real life investigations and “prosecutions” whose abilities were also unassailable. Where was this person?
And then, who made the decision to revisit the punishment, which to any legal person with a minimum level of legal experience would have known was wrought with peril given that a sentence was already handed down, and to give a harsher sentence after that would not be upheld in court. This is not to mention that it was media folly to revisit the sentencing issue, as it re-opened the matter and made them look either nefarious or foolish. Now, I am not justifying what Rice did. But, I do have a notion about due process and our legal system that does not condone “do-overs.” Get it right the first time–if you don’t you lose your opportunity. Unfortunately today, people are too worried about the court of public opinion, rather than a court of law. In the end, Goodell’s legal and media team found a way to lose in both courts.
To be fair, Goodall appears to have tried to change the procedures, increase punishments, and raising the seriousness of domestic violence cases to a new (albeit still anemic) level for all NFL players. The increased punishments are a good start, but I would have preferred far harsher sentences/penalties if a player is found to be a domestic abuser. He had an opportunity to make real change on punishments but came up short. Now, after the fury has died down, he has lost critical momentum to effect further changes to some extent. Despite this, I believe Goodell should now get really “serious” about the punishments on domestic violence cases. He can revisit this issue at any time. And, in this area, he can revisit future increased punishments from a policy perspective without any legal troubles whatsoever. So, let’s get to it!