Vilma’s lawyer says possibility of fair hearing is “pure fantasy”

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The players suspended for their roles in the alleged Saints bounty program believe the proof against them is roughly as real as the chances they have at getting a fair appeal hearing on Monday.

“After what Jonathan [Vilma] and the other players have been put through, to suggest the players are being presented with any kind of fair hearing based on what has been presented today is pure fantasy,” lawyer Peter Ginsberg told Jim Varney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  “The thin production today doesn’t link any of the players to a bounty system, and that’s consistent with what we know to be true — there was no bounty system.”

Varney’s report regarding the contents of the evidence confirm everything reported by PFT on Friday.  The league produced fewer than 200 pages of evidence that will be used at Monday’s quartet of appeal hearings, along with no list of witnesses to be called to provide raw evidence of bounties that could then be tested by the NFLPA and lawyers representing the individual players.

Also, the evidence to be presented by the NFL includes two items that didn’t even exist when the suspensions were implemented:  a June 6 article written by Mike Triplett of the Times-Picayune and filmmaker Sean Pamphilon’s rambling 10,000-plus-word diary regarding the events leading up to and following his decision to release audio of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ comments recorded the day before a January 2012 playoff loss to the 49ers.

While it’s possible that, given Vilma’s pending defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league has opted to keep in its back pocket for now any “smoking gun” evidence that would establish conclusively that Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked Brett Favre or Kurt Warner out of playoff games in January 2010, Ginsberg believes the league has chosen not to use any raw evidence of guilt at the Monday appeal hearings because it has no raw evidence of guilt.

“That’s because there are no credible witnesses who could substantiate the Commissioner’s allegations,” Ginsberg said.

And that’s ultimately what Goodell and the NFL need.  If Vilma truly offered to pay $10,000 to anyone for injuries to be inflicted on Favre, Warner, or any other opponent, someone presumably heard Vilma say it.  If the NFL doesn’t produce that person to testify at Monday’s hearing, how can Vilma ever obtain anything remotely resembling a fair opportunity to prove his innocence?  Coupled with the league’s likely refusal to make available coaches who would have been in the room when Vilma said what he said — coaches who possibly would say “I never heard Vilma said that” — the process becomes a sham.

Instead of giving the players a chance to get to the truth, the league seems to be relying on the same “take our word for it” approach that has characterized its entire handling of the pay-for-performance/bounty scandal.  It’s an approach that was launched the moment the league duped the media on March 2 into thinking there had to be conclusive proof of a bounty system, and that has lasted through each subsequent effort not to share evidence but to characterize and/or summarize it in a way that was skewed toward the league’s desire to hammer the Saints for using bounties, presumably to serve as the ultimate warning for any other players or coaches who may be tempted to use bounties in the future.

Though a truncated appeal hearing makes plenty of sense when there’s no dispute about what a player did and the only issue is the extent of his punishment, something far more detailed is necessary where, as in this case, the suspended players sharply disagree with the serious allegations made against them.  For a league that is so concerned about public confidence in the integrity of the game, the NFL should at least be a little concerned about public confidence in the integrity of the league.

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52 responses to “Vilma’s lawyer says possibility of fair hearing is “pure fantasy”

  1. In less than 3 months begins Robert Griffin the 3rd’s path to Canton when he racks up over 400 yards and 35+ points in the Superdome as the Skins cruise to victory brother.

  2. I’d like to hear Florio’s opinion on legal action *beyond* the league level. Being as you (Florio) are a lawyer, I’m less interested in hearing about the nonsense from Goodell and more about how this process will look like in an actual court of law in regards to the defamation lawsuit.

    The Rog may be the ultimate arbiter in fantasy NFL land, but in the federal court system he’s an equal with Vilma.

  3. @hulkogansays:

    Even if the skins were to overcome long odds to score 35 points, the Saints would have 40+ most likely. How long has it been since a team “cruised” to victory against the Saints in the dome with 35 points? You are counting on both a) RGIII will have an amazing game in his first game ever in a very hostile environment (possible, but not likely) and b) the #1 offense in NFL history will have its worst game in a long time at home and not even score in the 30s (in the dome where recently Saints score in 30s by halftime or early in 3rd qtr).

  4. What’s to stop the players from procuring those coaches’ testimony or getting copies of the same 18,000 documents from the Saints? The league will eventually have to cave if the pr blitz is strong enough. Ginsberg has the resources to make it happen

  5. “In less than 3 months begins Robert Griffin the 3rd’s path to Canton when he racks up over 400 yards and 35+ points in the Superdome as the Skins cruise to victory brother.”


    And then the damned alarm clock went off…..

  6. I can’t understand this mentality. Countless times you, Florio, have said that everyone knows all teams have a bounty system….. but the NFL wants to do something about it and you go back to being all lawyery. Fujita himself confessed and spoke about paying $$$$ for big plays. Now he recants and is “now” being persecuted by the NFL…….give me a break. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. While being able to exhonerate oneself of course, via due process, is what is at the crux of all this, the NFL doesn’t have to oblige. It is a privately run business. It has a CBA. These players get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Man up and take it. If they don’t like it…get a real job. No one says that Vilma has any entitlement to a job in the NFL. They are not stopping him from working…just stopping him from working in the NFL. Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the time. It is riduclous how you have become just like the mainstream media….siding with whichever way that favors the way winds blow. Maybe the NFL is no longer the Not for long league anymore but rather now the Not for loosers legaue.

  7. Good article Mike. There will be a judge somewhere, whose gonna find this miscarriage of justice just too much to bare, and then all hell breaks loose. What I find more disgusting than Goddell are the other owners who are watching this sham from the sidelines as if they are on some other planet. They won’t have but one chance to right this ship…….tick, tock……….

  8. hulkhogansays says:Jun 16, 2012 12:29 AM

    In less than 3 months begins Robert Griffin the 3rd’s path to Canton when he racks up over 400 yards and 35+ points in the Superdome as the Skins cruise to victory brother.

    The only thing about your statement that has anything to do with this post is that it is “pure fantasy”.

  9.  For a league that is so concerned about public confidence in the integrity of the game, the NFL should at least be a little concerned about public confidence in the integrity of the league.

    Please. Everyone but you and Saints fans feel this way. The rest of the world understands the Saints got busted, accepted it and moved on weeks ago.

    You guys are the wide minority.

  10. DeNile is not just a river in Egypt Mr Vilma, didn’t your mamma teach to take responsibilty for your actions?? Better invest in a nice tv and surround sound cuz bud your watchin football this year

  11. No “CREDIBLE” witnesses? An interesting distinction the lawyer makes there. Sets up perfectly for him to cover his client’s butt by discrediting any witness. And protecting him in his suit against Goodell also.

  12. Mike, do you really think Goodell and his lawyers are stupid?

    Of course they are holding back and will release evidence / witness testimony when it suits them and not Vilma or his mouthpiece…

  13. The league won’t take any public opinion hit in this. Because this is the NFL and at this point this leauge is pretty much invincible.

    Goodells actions resemble exactly the mindset that Florio thinks Revis has when it comes to repressions for holding out: He just doesn’t care – because in the end he knows he’s going to come out on top!

  14. Robert Griffin III; Is not ready for the NFL this is not college football, the way Roger Goodell got it going he might be able to do a little something with the other teams. But when it comes to the New Orleans Saints we going to let the dogs out on every team we face. Because we is on the move to victory for all of the hardship we face here we come.

  15. The players need to give up this fantasy crap and move on. They are annoying me the closer we get to training camp.
    Vilma has a bigmouth lawyer and the others are ashamed of their own behavior both in their actions at the time of their rule violations and now that they have to cry and whine, spouting their innocence to no one who believes them.
    I don’t.
    Play football and act like a man. An accountable human, albeit a well-paid one.

  16. Whether the bounties happened or not, the league has handled this terribly.
    No hard evidence and still suspending players. Heresay is what they are running on. Not credible in the least.

  17. “there was no bounty system” i guess they are forgetting the coaches and players that admitted there was a bounty system hahahahaha wow…. idiots

  18. i started off last winter believing goodell about the bounties. now i have my doubts. there was smoke. i’m not sure there was fire. you gotta have rock solid evidence to take away millions of dollars from a dude.

  19. That the NFL includes in this ‘evidence’ the very odd 10,000 word internet rant of Sean Pamphilon speaks volumes for what the NFL doesn’t have: actual proof.

  20. Peter Ginsburg is notorious for claiming his client can’t get a fair and impartial hearing. He sought to have a federal judge removed from presiding over one of Ginsburg’s cases in Florida. He argued the judge was so biased his client wouldn’t receive due process. The trial court ruled, and a federal court of appeals affirmed, that Ginsburg’s allegations were so outlandish it warranted Ginsburg paying a $370,000.00 fine and his law license in that court be suspended for five years.

  21. This is obviously where the league should use its leverage with Gregg Williams. I don’t believe that Gregg Williams used the Vilma defense……deny that any of this happened. It is not a bad move for Vilma because any player who testifies would have a tough time ever playing again. The league is in a tough spot as it tries to provide evidence.

  22. The lawyer rhetoric is nauseating! You go back and watch his and other Saints “hits” and clearly they were monetarily orchestrated. He needs to go and play in the Siberian “Dig Ice” league and get out of true American football.

  23. What a shock, a lawyer speaking out for his client, but he should have no problems because as a lawyer he should be well schooled in “fantasy”

  24. Wow, a lawyer claiming the evidence against his client is bogus!! Someone ready the fainting couch I think I am getting light headed.

    It seems pretty clear to me Goodell is trying to protect the whistle-blowers by not offering evidence that would reveal their identities. IMO, this is the right thing to do. All you need to do is look at what happened to Jeremy Shockey to understand this.

    Maybe Florio & Co. should think of that the next time they tell us how unfair this process is.

  25. ….”there was no bounty system”. That’s right Mr. Ginsberg – that’s why the Saints defensive coordinator admitted to it and was very contrite in an attempt not to be barred from the NFL forever. That’s right Mr. Ginsberg – you’re smart and the rest of us are all stupid. Such hubris.

  26. This is getting more interesting with every passing day. Let’s go pop some corn boys and girls.

    I would not be surprised if Vilma walks out or skips the appeal hearing as he already knows that nothing will change and the commish will uphold the suspensions. Vilma has nothing to lose as he views a 1 year suspension as a “death penalty” to his career.

  27. Hey Rubes…..ask yourself one question. Why would you provide all the documentation/evidence for an appeals hearing that you are judge,jury and executioner? If you weren’t such rubes, don’t you think you would save it for the bigger fish…….like Vilma’s crazy lawsuit against Goodell and the NFL??? Ginsburg is using the jury of public opinion to try and force Goodell to provide the “evidence” that he could then use at the trial against Goodell. Wake up and smell the coffee rubes.

  28. unfortunately the headline is completely true. as long as the nfl continues has anti trust exemption, then thats how it will continue to be. the nfl is its own pure fantasy world, and for some reason doesnt have to operate like the rest of america

  29. By the way, can anyone criticizing Ginsberg here explain why he’s wrong? He is not. Under these circumstances, there is no fair hearing. Even if it is by the letter of the CBA, that doesn’t lend any fairness to this process.

    Oh, and if the NFL was worried about protecting whistleblowers, they would guarantee potential NFLPA witnesses (ie, coaches) no retribution from the league. It is telling that people are afraid to testify against the league’s case.

  30. ALL suspensions should be reduced or rescinded, ALL fines reduced, the 2nd round pick next year reinstated, and a 1st round supplemental pick should be awarded next year for the 2nd rounder the Saints lost this year. Yes, they broke a rule. BFD. It wasn’t nothing but it was about as close to nothing as you can get. It’s football.

  31. Goodell is not going to risk damaging the defense he has against Vilma’s defamation suit in an actual court of law by providing evidence to Ginsberg during this BS appeals process. Roger’s lawyers know that the smoking gun evidence he has right now doesn’t need to be shown at this time, and are not going to give Ginsberg and his boys 5 months to dissect and discredit what he has with their lawyering until he needs to during the discovery phase of the defamation suit. So no, Roger isn’t the devil and doesn’t need to show anything right now.

    Want a fair appeal? Don’t sue the man hearing your appeal. I mean that’s just basic common sense Vilma.

  32. It’s amazing that there are many people who still insist the Saints have to be guilty, with nothing more than Goodell saying so. For some reason, they so badly wanted it to be true, and stick to that belief even when it’s clear that there is no credible evidence. “The coaches already admitted to it,” they say, but in fact, they never did. They apologized, per Goodell’s demand, and then he added his words to what they apologized for. If Goodell doesn’t lift Vilma’s suspension, then a court eventually will. He might want to lift Sean Payton’s suspension too, as the only thing to save his job.

  33. Wow, it amazes me how many people have taken would Goodell has said and run with it and still believe it despite time and time again things being leaked that supposedly proved his case and in turned strengthed the Saints case.

    1. The ledger was leaked saying first we injued players in a game against washington, when people looked into it and saw that no injuries occured then it was Oh, my mistake, Carolina…still the injuries were on defense, not offense.

    2. The league releases only about 200 pages of the so called 50,000 they have to show what they are going to use to prove that the suspended players were part of a bounty system…problem is none of the 200 pages shows that there was any bounty program, only pay for performance. Doesn’t even have the supposed proof that Vilma put up 10,000 bounty on Favre. Then they add 2 items that came out after the suspensions as reasons for the suspension.

    some of you have to use your brain for a change. Really. Nothing has come out yet other then Goodell’s work that there was a bounty system. No Proof whatsoever, yet some of your hatred for the Saints(whether it be Falcons fans, etc) has you blinded and you will just not see the big picture.

  34. Can’t wait to read how Goodell’s influence has brainwashed the mind of a federal judge, appointed by a U.S. President to a life term on the bench, if she dismisses Vilma’s suit for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

  35. Ok, to all you intellectual ironmen bringing up the fact that the coaches “admitted it”, please go back and actually READ what the coaches admitted to. Not ONE of them ever said “yes, we had a _BOUNTY_ program”…they all said “we had a _PAY-FOR-PERFORMANCE_ program”. That’s an important distinction…show me A SINGLE team in the league that doesn’t do this (whether they cop to it or not)…NOT GONNA HAPPEN. Is it against the rules? Yes, no argument. Is it what the NFL is saying it is? NO FLIPPIN’ WAY.

    And if Goodell thinks that lowering the boom on the Saints like he has is going to do anything to change that, well, I have a prime piece of oceanfront property in downtown Phoenix I’ll sell him for a song…

  36. Ok here are some facts that some might not know.
    Anthony Hargrove did give a signed statement to the NFL. He did not admit to being a part of a pay to injure program. NFL said he did admit to pay for injury then the signed statement came out. Guess what I read the statement and Roger Goodell’s statement was false. Greg Williams wrote a statement. Roger G didn’t like it. So he wrote a statement for Williams to sign and hung the fact that Williams suspension was indefinite and he had better sign. Sean Payton, Loomis and Vitt did not admit to a pay for injury program. There was a pool of money that came mostly from players some from Greg Williams. It was paid out for sacks, interceptions and other big plays. You put money in for a penalty. Lots of players from other teams have admitted to the same thing. Friday NFL was supposed to present its evidence to the NFLPA and the 4 players. It was a power point presentation of quotes from Greg Williams. Mostly from the recorded pre game speach ftom the playoff game against SF last year. Saints didn’t commit any penalties in that game. Bottom line is there is no on the field evidence to back up Roger Goodell’s claims.

  37. I don’t understand how the NFL can consider what the ygave the players as credible evidence. They gave them less than 200 pages in a total of 16 documents, 2 of which were the 10,000+ word ramblings of the Bottom-feeder’s essay and an article that was written last week in the T-P about the team’s pay-for-performance program. According to the CBA, the evidence that is to shared is the evidence that lead to the decision to punish. How, can evidence that came out AFTER punishments were dealt?

  38. @Keith: I went back and read the statement of Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis. The NFL disclosed on March 2, 2012, the results of its investigation of the Saints. They included:

    “PAYMENTS also were made for plays on which opposing players were INJURED. In addition, specific players were sometimes targeted. The investigation showed BOUNTIES being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams.”

    Four days later, Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton responded:

    “We acknowledge that the violations disclosed by the NFL during their investigation of our club HAPPENED under our watch. We take FULL RESPONSIBILITY.”

    No qualification or denial that payments were made for opposing players who were injured. No qualification or denial that specific opposing players were targeted in the bounty program.

    No evidence? A confession/admission is the strongest form of evidence that exists.

  39. I think we can all agree that Goodell has a paternalistic approach to being the commissioner of the NFL. It is evident in the way punishment is levied: inconsistently. So, his handling of this situation is no different. If NFL has evidence why not share? As a dad, if I caught or were supplied evidence of my sons’ wrongdoing, I’m not gonna hide it in the midst of applying punishment. I want them to know what I know so that they know that this punishment isn’t unwarranted. However these actions (or lack thereof) makes Goodell look suspect and his actions disingenuous and those of a megalomaniac.

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