Claiming that the “NFL has refused to provide a single piece of evidence” proving that linebacker Jonathan Vilma allegedly participated in a bounty program, Vilma’s lawyer has submitted with the appeal of Vilma’s one-year suspension a sweeping request for documents and other evidence regarding the claim.
Peter Ginsberg’s letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell, a copy of which Ginsberg has provided to PFT, seeks 17 categories of information.
The request encompasses, among other things, documents proving the existence of a bounty program (such as notebooks, ledgers, etc.), documents showing that Vilma assisted in the establishment of the program, documents showing that Vilma “pledged” to make payments for “cart-offs” and/or “knockouts” and/or injuries inflicted on opponents, documents proving that Vilma “targeted” opponents in a way that violates NFL rules, all witness statements, interview notes, recordings of interviews, and a full list of all witnesses who will present evidence at the appeal hearing.
It’s a very broad request, but it’s a normal part of pre-trial discovery in civil and criminal litigation. If the NFL refuses to comply or provides only summaries of evidence without specifics by contending that the in-house appeal process isn’t a full-blown legal proceedings, Vilma’s eventual legal attack against the outcome of the arbitration could become stronger.
Regardless, it’s only fair for the NFL to make the evidence available to Vilma, so that he can defend himself against the charges. Right or wrong, guilty or innocent, he deserves a chance to test the evidence against him, even if the man who made the decision to suspend him will also be handling the appeal of that decision.