Mueller Report concludes NFL never saw Ray Rice video

January 9, 2015

Former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III today released the results of a four-month independent investigation into the Ray Rice incident, determining that the NFL never possessed video of the event inside the elevator.  Despite that positive finding for the league, the report did criticize the NFL's lack of investigation into the incident.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, probably ecstatic that he will get to keep his job, issued the following statement today on the report:

"We are grateful to Director Mueller for conducting an extremely thorough and detailed investigation, and we accept his findings and recommendations. I want to express my appreciation to John Mara and Art Rooney for their leadership. Director Mueller made a series of very constructive observations and recommendations regarding our prior investigatory procedures. We have already addressed many of these points in the revisions to the Personal Conduct Policy that were announced last month. I look forward to reviewing these recommendations with the league’s new Conduct Committee chaired by Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill. 
While this investigation has now concluded, our focus on the underlying issues and our commitment to positive change remain as strong as ever. We have all learned a great deal in the past months and expect to be judged by how we lead going forward on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault."

The NFL asked Mueller on September 10, 2014, to address two questions on the Ray Rice incident: First, did the NFL possess or view the in-elevator video of Mr. Rice and his then-fiancĂ©e Janay Palmer from the Revel Casino before its public release on September 8, 2014?  Second, what information was obtained, provided or available to the NFL during its investigation of the Rice incident?

Acting with full independence from the NFL, Mr. Mueller and his colleagues claim to have reviewed millions of documents, emails, text messages, and electronic data logs, and interviewed more than 200 NFL employees and contractors.  In addition, digital forensics experts searched computers and mobile phones of the league’s senior executives, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, for any digital evidence of the in-elevator video.

Responding to a news story that a woman at the NFL confirmed receipt of the video in the April 9 call, investigators traced every outgoing phone call from the NFL, and took several other investigative actions that are detailed in the report.

The investigators also interviewed every female employee, contractor or vendor whose electronic badge recorded that she was in the League’s main office on that day. Each was asked whether they made such a call or had any knowledge about the receipt by the NFL of an in-elevator video of the Rice incident.

The investigation found no evidence that the NFL received the in-elevator video before its public release on September 8, 2014.

However, all was not so rosy with the report, as it essentially accused the NFL of turning a blind eye to the problem.

The report criticized the NFL’s deference to law enforcement, noting that it “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.”

It further found that the NFL’s deference to the law enforcement process involving Mr. Rice “led to deficiencies in the League’s collection and analysis of information during its investigation.”

Finally, it scolded the league, stating that the NFL had “substantial information suggesting a serious event had occurred inside the elevator that the League should have further investigated.” Had the League done so, “it may have uncovered additional information about the incident, possibly including the in-elevator video prior to its public release.”

The report ultimately stated that it found "no evidence that anyone at the NFL had or saw the in-elevator video before it was publicly shown. We also found no evidence that a woman at the NFL acknowledged receipt of that video in a voicemail message on April 9, 2014."

Mueller also concluded "there was substantial information about the incident – even without the in-elevator video – indicating the need for a more thorough investigation. The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident.”

The report acknowledged the NFL’s changes to its Personal Conduct Policy, but also offered several recommendations for additional improvements, including: 1) More training and better supervision for NFL investigators; 2) the creation of a specialized investigative team for domestic violence and sexual abuse cases; 3) investigative guidelines and standards to encourage more thorough investigations; and 4) policies requiring more information sharing between the league and NFL clubs during investigations.

The owners immediately came out in support of Goodell once the report was released.

New York Giants President John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II today issued the following statement on the matter:

“On behalf of the owners of the thirty-two National Football League teams, we would like to thank Director Mueller and his staff for the work they have put into this investigation.
“Mr. Mueller’s report is detailed, extensive and thorough. His investigators reviewed millions of documents, emails and text messages. Investigators searched the computers and phones of Commissioner Goodell, senior NFL executives, people in the mailroom, and others who might have information about the in-elevator video.
“After interviewing more than two hundred people, including every woman who worked at the NFL at the time the alleged call was made acknowledging receipt of the in-elevator video, and after an exhaustive forensic search of all electronic records, the investigators found no evidence that anyone in the League received or viewed the in-elevator video prior to its release. The investigators also found no evidence of a woman at the League acknowledging receipt of the video in a voicemail message.
“The investigators also identified a “weakness” – as they call it – in the League’s longstanding practice of deferring to the criminal justice system when matters like this arise.  Mr. Mueller concludes that the League should have conducted a more substantial independent investigation of this matter and he has made six recommendations. This morning, we spoke to Commissioner Goodell about these recommendations.  We want to review them and understand them in greater detail. We look forward to moving forward on this.
“The report also states that the Associated Press declined to cooperate with the investigation.

“As owners, we are the first to agree that the NFL did not have a sufficient policy in place to deal with players or other personnel accused of domestic violence. As leaders of this sport, it is our responsibility to recognize the pain domestic violence causes to families in our league and in our society.  We were slow to react, and in the case of Ray Rice, the original punishment was insufficient.  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.  We believe these new policies are tough and appropriate.
“This matter has tarnished the reputation of the NFL due to our failure to hand out proper punishments. It has been a wake-up call to all involved and we expect the changes that have been made will lead to improvements in how any similar issues are handled in the future.
“It is clear to us that Commissioner Goodell was forthright in the statements he made to the owners about this matter, and we have every confidence that Roger Goodell is the right person to lead the league as we move forward.”

By Staff of and news services

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