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Vilma says NFL won’t produce Williams or Cerullo at appeal hearing

Goodell Bounties Football AP

As the legal briefs continue to fly in to federal court in Louisiana, careful inspection of the documents reveals all sorts of interesting things.

Here’s the latest, and it’s a doozy.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma contends in an October 18 filing that the NFL has refused to produce former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams or former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo for testimony at the October 23 appeal hearing before Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The league likewise refused to produce either witness during the first appeal hearing in June.  That time, however, the NFL wasn’t hinging so much of its case against Vilma on sworn statements from Williams and Cerullo.  (Indeed, in June, the NFL staunchly was refusing to even disclose Cerullo as a witness.)

This time, there’s no way Vilma can get a fair hearing without a chance to question the two men on whose word the NFL is heavily relying in suspending Vilma.  Their sworn statements give rise to plenty of questions that need to be asked, including topics such as whether and to what extent Williams’ ability to return to the NFL (or to attend games while supposedly “banned” from pro football) hinged on signing the sworn statement, whether Williams or someone else wrote the statement, whether Williams if he didn’t write the statement fully agrees with every word of it, whether the money that Vilma allegedly offered belonged to Vilma or someone else (rumors persist in league circles that it may have been Williams money).

As to Cerullo, there are real questions about his alleged desire to take revenge against the Saints for firing him after the 2009 season.  There’s no way to assess his potential bias without asking him questions about the circumstances surrounding his termination — and whether he said things at the time like, for example, “I’ll get Joe Vitt for this,” or words to that effect.

As to both men, their respective statements contain a rather significant discrepancy.  Cerullo says the money offered by Vilma was given to Williams.  Williams says he never received it.  How can the league accept the word of both men as the Gospel truth when there’s such a strong discrepancy on such a key point?

For Vilma to not receive a chance to question Williams and Cerullo makes a mockery of the process.  The NFL surely will seek refuge in the “it’s not a court proceeding” mantra.  But the league can’t have it both ways.  Using sworn statements makes it enough like a court proceeding to compel the witnesses to answer questions under oath.  It’s simply unfair to base suspensions on written testimony without giving the person whose livelihood and reputation is affected adversely by the outcome to ask questions of the persons who signed their names to the documents.

Thus, Judge Helen Berrigan should give the NFL a choice:  Make the witnesses available, or rescind the suspension of Vilma.

In a case that has been at times maddeningly complicated, this is by far the simplest aspect of it.  Without a chance to confront and question Williams and Cerullo, Vilma can’t fairly be punished.

UPDATE 12:50 p.m. ET:  The NFL says a final decision regarding the parameters of the appeal hearing has not been made.

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42 Responses to “Vilma says NFL won’t produce Williams or Cerullo at appeal hearing”
  1. goodellgate says: Oct 19, 2012 10:36 AM

    That’s a shocker..

  2. karlton3 says: Oct 19, 2012 10:36 AM

    I’ve been pretty pro-NFL on this throughout, but this is a fairly common-sense approach.

  3. btrwhodat says: Oct 19, 2012 10:42 AM

    So how trustworthy does Goodell look now guys?

  4. dublindemonszfl says: Oct 19, 2012 10:43 AM

    Vilma, go away! There’s no crying in FOOTBALL!

  5. mavajo says: Oct 19, 2012 10:46 AM

    This is crazy. Who the hell is giving the NFL legal advice right now? It seems like the NFL really does think they’re untouchable.

    No one thing is ever going to kill the NFL — except for, you know, Armageddon or something like that. But whether it’s showing up immediately or not, all the shennanigans of the last few years (NFLPA lockout, NFLRA lockout, Saints bounty scandal, etc.) are absolutely going to take a toll on the NFL. It may be more akin to “Death by a thousand scratches” than any sort of divisive death blow, but make no mistake, this is not good for the NFL.

    MLB used to think it was invincible too.

  6. musicman495 says: Oct 19, 2012 10:47 AM

    Mike Florio, thank you for being one of the very few people in teh media who is standing up for the U.S. Constitution in this case.

  7. clwb419 says: Oct 19, 2012 10:50 AM

    What is stopping Vilma from asking Williams and/or Cerullo to attend? Or the court for that matter?

    This biased “reporting” is getting old Florio.

  8. draftazoid says: Oct 19, 2012 10:50 AM

    Vilma needs to bring his own witnesses. That’s the American way.
    He might have to offer $10,000 to someone who will pledge for him.

  9. geauxjay says: Oct 19, 2012 10:50 AM

    I’m sure that the “Vilma is guilty and should take his punishment like a man” idiots will continue to rationalized, especially in the comments section.

    But you CANNOT tell me that if you were accused of something like this and there was not a level playing field or your boss kept changing the rules on you, that you would “lie down and take it.” You would fight it tooth and nail. And if you wouldn’t, you’re a freaking coward.

  10. purpleguy says: Oct 19, 2012 10:51 AM

    This refusing to produce argument is a red-herring, as the NFL can’t “make” non-party witnesses appear at a court hearing in a state in which they do not reside if that non-party witness doesn’t want to. Isn’t the legal isue in Loisianna the propriety of the punishment and appeal system as opposed to the underlying merits? How does the witness testimony relate to that core legal issue?

  11. tommysaint1 says: Oct 19, 2012 10:52 AM

    Geez, Goodell and the NFL are awesomely shady. Drew was right, this is a sham. You can probably add an incredible abuse of power to the list as well.

  12. dcsween says: Oct 19, 2012 10:52 AM

    Trained as a lawyer, Goodell must have had to become a member of a state bar at some point in his career. He would have had to swear to uphold the laws of the state and the United States, as well as the state constitution and the U.S. Constitution. The right of confrontation is in the Bill of Rights. Its one of the most basic of the rights of the accused and it was developed in response to actions by the British Crown. Goodell is being downright British about this. No wonder he wants to play more games in London. He’s being very Un-American about this bounty stuff.

  13. saintsfan26 says: Oct 19, 2012 10:53 AM

    Preach to me Florio.

  14. bootsers says: Oct 19, 2012 10:54 AM

    A CBA Appeal is not a court appeal; doesn’t have to be. Vilma is trying to claim his innocence based on Goodells hearings not being handle like they would in court.

    Lets just get this overwith. The home town court judge will rule with Vilma who will get his stay. NFL appeals and it gets kicked out of Louisiana and will be overturned, AS IT SHOULD, and Vilma will serve his suspension next year at home when he cant catch on with a team.

  15. cwwgk says: Oct 19, 2012 10:55 AM

    The suspended players absolutely should have the opportunity to cross examine Williams and Cerullo. However, it’s unclear whether the NFL is prohibiting those two from testifying or just not going to do the work for the players.

    If the former, that’s plain wrong. If the latter, and the players are free to produce Williams and Cerullo on their own, this is just yet another smokescreen being blown by the NFLPA.

  16. oneeyedhito says: Oct 19, 2012 10:57 AM

    Am I the only one who is really Tired of and Bored with “the Days of the NFL”…….ridiculous. I don’t know exactly when the switch flipped for me, but alas it has, what I used to enjoy has become like a summer squash, I could really give a sh*t less if it is in the meal or not…..

  17. geauxjay says: Oct 19, 2012 10:57 AM

    Perhaps Vilma and Ginsberg can also ask Roger Goodell why New Orleans was suddenly dropped from Super Bowl 50 and 51 consideration a few hours after a judge told him to share his evidence.

    I mean, even this website reported that New Orleans would be one of two finalists for 50 and now they’re off the list altogether?

  18. pobreezy says: Oct 19, 2012 10:57 AM

    Let me just get this out of the way.

    Vilma is guilty! Why else would goodell not have them testify?

    Come on saints haters, let’s see the spin…

  19. materialman80 says: Oct 19, 2012 10:58 AM

    The NFL needs to produce everybody involved in this and get the full story. If they are not going to do that, it all needs to be dropped.

  20. sdisme says: Oct 19, 2012 11:00 AM

    Cue up the people who never read the CBA saying….
    but that’s what the players bargained for.

  21. sterling7 says: Oct 19, 2012 11:01 AM

    I am soooooooooooo tired of this crap-go away!

  22. phrancheyez says: Oct 19, 2012 11:01 AM

    I know there’s been a lot of hate on here lately against the Saints and Vilma. I know most people are of the ‘Shut up and take your punishment’ group. However…how can you be when information comes out like this?

    Roger Goodell has butchered this process from the start. I don’t think he’s handled any of this properly, and I can’t see how anyone else could agree with him.

    If he feels he’s right, if he feels these suspensions are just and that he’s acting in the best interest of the league, and in the correct manner based on the evidence he has, produce it. It’s over. There’s no more investigation, there’s no more cover-up, there’s no more names that need to come out. If you aren’t biased, the evidence should exonerate your intentions.

    Everyone hates on the Saints all the sudden, but how can any of you blame them for fighting for something they believe in when the NFL is handling this situation the way that they are? How can you condemn them when the NFL’s stories (all of them almost) contradict each other, and they won’t give those accused an honest chance to prove their innocence?

    I believe Roger Goodell is trying to set an example to use as a defense against so many of the concussion lawsuits. That’s my firm, honest belief.

  23. genericuser8888 says: Oct 19, 2012 11:03 AM

    The NFL’s entire case, basically, rests on the testimony of a disgruntled employee, Cerullo, and a man desperate to get his job back, Williams. Yet, the sworn statements from these two men do not even agree.

    No wonder the league won’t produce them for cross-examination.

    Bounty punishments = a sham.

  24. packh8er says: Oct 19, 2012 11:05 AM

    Am I the only one who at this point doesn’t even care about the outcome anymore, but just wants this to be over? Initially I was bitter over my Vikes getting targeted like that on the doorstep to a superbowl appearance, but that was 3 years ago, just time to close the book on all this finally.

  25. purplegreenandgold says: Oct 19, 2012 11:06 AM

    For Vilma to not receive a chance to question Williams and Cerullo makes a mockery of the process.
    ======================================
    its already a mockery…Cerullo will be a soldier to the end however the NFL knows that the promises made to Greg Williams for his cooperation would blow this ship out of the water

  26. marima07 says: Oct 19, 2012 11:11 AM

    Vilma never denies that he did it. His only argument is against the NFL’s ability to PROVE that he did it.

    Whatever the ruling ends up on this, he’s as disingenuous and weasel-like as they come.

  27. rockthered1286 says: Oct 19, 2012 11:12 AM

    I truly appreciate the humor here folks. Glad everyone has no problem taking Vilma AT HIS WORD. Did the NFL ever confirm Vilma’s statement here? NO. Did anybody for that matter? NO. So why is it that everyone else seems to think he’s being honest (obviously has sucha great track record of honesty, right?)

    Here’s what this is. NFL and RG got the fanbase back on their side by rescinding the initial suspensions, despite reissuing them. Now Vilma needs a ploy to get everyone back on his side. Swing the pendulum if you will. So he throws another “hey they aren’t being fair to me” retort to get common folk stirred up hating RG again. Yes it was in a filling, but it’s more of a PR thing and assurance that these 2 will be there in court than anything else. Doesn’t it speak volumes that none of the other players in the case have come to the table with the same issue? Hmmm…

    My suggestion? How about waiting until the 23rd is over and worrying about it then?

  28. donramis says: Oct 19, 2012 11:14 AM

    Forget the format of the NFL process versus a court process….it is a fundamental right of anyone who is accused of something to be able to question his accuser. If the NFL does not allow for this to happen, then I have to believe that there are many aspects of this case that are not as the NFL claims and that they don’t want someone asking the witnesses what the NFL offerred them for their testimony. All around a total screw up….

  29. euphoni says: Oct 19, 2012 11:19 AM

    SOMEBODY IS LYING.

    Everyone must testify to get to the absolute truth.

    I also hope Vilma doesn’t feel bad about calling out GWilliams because GW has the ability to clear everything up but hasn’t. GW’s selfishness, truthfulness and lack of integrity are keeping him from coming forward. I bet GW still didn’t tell Goodell the whole and complete truth, that’s why he’s keeping shut.

  30. xakle says: Oct 19, 2012 11:21 AM

    bootsers says:Oct 19, 2012 10:54 AM

    A CBA Appeal is not a court appeal; doesn’t have to be. Vilma is trying to claim his innocence based on Goodells hearings not being handle like they would in court.

    Lets just get this overwith. The home town court judge will rule with Vilma who will get his stay. NFL appeals and it gets kicked out of Louisiana and will be overturned, AS IT SHOULD, and Vilma will serve his suspension next year at home when he cant catch on with a team.
    —————————————

    The NFL is required by law to follow basic standards of fairness in this country.

    The defendents should be able to question any ‘evidence’ the NFL is using against them. In this case, the NFL is refusing to allow them to question the two biggest pieces of ‘evidence’ in this case.

    And yes, it’s up to the NFL to compel them to attend the appeal hearing. Cerullo won’t appear because he’s a liar that sought revenge. Williams won’t appear because he won’t ever coach again if he doesn’t follow the NFL’s every order.

    If you assume the NFL has asked them to attend, and they refuse, then fairness would require that the NFL not use their testimony as ‘evidence’ against the players.

  31. 6thsense79 says: Oct 19, 2012 11:30 AM

    I cannot believe there are still people who takes what the league says at face value. This is the same league that punished two of its franchises for refusing to set a salary cap during an uncapped year (also known as collusion any where else). Then had the nerve to call it a “salary cap adjustment”. When the story broke the league made it seem as if the Skins and Boys had broken some major rule until people started asking what exactly they broke. Lo and behold they didn’t break anything. And yes if you can’t tell I’m a bitter Skins fan. The way the league has gone about handling this whole thing is shameful.

  32. thingamajig says: Oct 19, 2012 11:39 AM

    Lawyer 101. If you have written statements from Williams and Cerullo would you as the NFL bring them in? And if so why?

  33. thelastpieceofcheese says: Oct 19, 2012 11:57 AM

    “Thus, Judge Helen Berrigan should give the NFL a choice: Make the witnesses available, or rescind the suspension of Vilma.”

    What about: Contract law dictates Vilma must comply with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

  34. nispikers says: Oct 19, 2012 12:00 PM

    purpleguy says:Oct 19, 2012 10:51 AM

    This refusing to produce argument is a red-herring, as the NFL can’t “make” non-party witnesses appear at a court hearing in a state in which they do not reside if that non-party witness doesn’t want to. Isn’t the legal isue in Loisianna the propriety of the punishment and appeal system as opposed to the underlying merits? How does the witness testimony relate to that core legal issue?
    ———————————————————
    This is at the appeals hearing that they want Williams and Cerullo to appear. If Goodell can get Williams to sign a sworn statement after the fact, he can compell him to appear.
    Ginsburg has already subpoened Williams and Cerullo for the legal case and they are supposed to have depositions sometimes this month. But so was Goodell. Haven’t heard much on that one yet.

  35. srg608 says: Oct 19, 2012 12:16 PM

    That last post almost made it a full minute – at least someone is reading them. Or I’ve been blacklisted. Either way – I’m still profoundly disappointed at the depths that this site has sunk to.

  36. 6thsense79 says: Oct 19, 2012 12:35 PM

    thelastpieceofcheese says: Oct 19, 2012 11:57 AM

    “Thus, Judge Helen Berrigan should give the NFL a choice: Make the witnesses available, or rescind the suspension of Vilma.”

    What about: Contract law dictates Vilma must comply with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
    ———_

    Seeing as how the commissioner’s first ruling was smacked down because it violated the CBA maybe you should be telling Goodell to comply with the terms of the CBA. Besides the CBA calls for a fair and impartial arbiter and the commissioner has neen anything but. Why don’t people like you point that out when you bring up the CBA?

  37. silentcount says: Oct 19, 2012 12:44 PM

    And in conclusion, the Saints didn’t do enough out of the ordinary to deserve the most severe punishment in the history of the NFL. Goodell had no business making his accusations with so little valid evidence to back it up. He basically killed the Saints season over nothing. The sad thing is there are still fans of other teams hating Vilma and others for fighting back against Goodell’s abuse of power.

  38. saintsfan26 says: Oct 19, 2012 1:13 PM

    thelastpieceofcheese says: Oct 19, 2012 11:57 AM

    “Thus, Judge Helen Berrigan should give the NFL a choice: Make the witnesses available, or rescind the suspension of Vilma.”

    What about: Contract law dictates Vilma must comply with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

    __________

    Are you referring to the same CBA that Goodell IS NOT complying with?

  39. samapoc says: Oct 19, 2012 1:37 PM

    If the nfl’s case crumbles here, how will that affect the suspended coaches? Will Sean Payton sue for lost wages and earnings? Could get interesting.

  40. lhoward35 says: Oct 19, 2012 2:12 PM

    “Ginsburg has already subpoened Williams and Cerullo for the legal case and they are supposed to have depositions sometimes this month. But so was Goodell. Haven’t heard much on that one yet.”

    Exactly nispikers! The Saints haters seem to forget or ignore that not only is the league refusing to make Williams and Cerullo available for cross-examination in the appeals, but they have ALSO requested a stay of discovery in Federal court blocking not only Vilma’s ability to examine ALL of the evidence collected in this case, but also preventing his lawyers from deposing Williams, Cerullo, and Goodell. What are they trying to cover up?

  41. bayouranch says: Oct 19, 2012 2:43 PM

    Goodell’s family,relatives and maybe him are Vikings fans. This has clouded his judgement and caused him to move forward with questionable evidence.

  42. bgrab1 says: Oct 19, 2012 6:58 PM

    To my understanding Mr. Goodell’s daughter is a huge Minnesota Vikings fan and his wife was a former resident and corespondent for a local Minnesota news program. Goodell was on the Vikings sideline durring that game buddy buddying with Childress. That is the whistle blower right there not Jimmy Kennedy but butt hurt Brad Childress. The majority of this so called evidence presented about “Bounty Gate” stems from the 2010 NFC Championship game in which the New Orleans Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings. When Roger needed to make it look like the league cared about the players in fighting the Concussion law suits it was a very easy choice for him as to which team would take the bullet for the league- The small market New Orleans Saints. Now Roger is trying to look all noble by standing aside now that his testicles are being pinned to the wall by Ginsburg but who does Roger pic to replace him? Tagliabeau who is a Lawyer with the same law firm that is defending Roger Goodell against Jonathan Vilma in the defamation case. The only way this nonsense gets truly settled is when the Judge reviews all the evidence and makes her ruling.

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