Report: Ray Rice hearing transcript shows NFL didn't seek elevator tape
An NFL investigator did not contact the Atlantic City Police Department to request a copy of the video that showed Ray Rice striking his then-fiancee in a casino elevator, according to a transcript of Rice's appeal hearing obtained by ESPN.
ESPN obtained the entire 631-page transcript of the November hearing. At the end of the hearing, former federal judge Barbara Jones overturned Rice's indefinite suspension.
One portion of the transcript details Goodell's testimony at the hearing, beginning with the NFL commissioner's assertion that league officials made every effort to obtain the in-elevator tape. Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for the NFL players' union, questions Goodell about the steps the league took to secure the video.
From ESPN's report:
Kessler: "Did you ever learn before or after that that in fact no formal request was made for videos about your security department of the police department who had it is that in fact they never made such a formal request?"
Goodell: "[What] does a formal request mean?"
Kessler: "Are you aware that there [are] laws in the State of New Jersey where people can file formal requests for information from the police department?"
Goodell: "I'm not an attorney."
...Kessler: "So on September 9th, [NFL investigator Jim Buckley] writes to [NFL head of security Jeffery B. Miller], 'Again, I never spoke to anyone from the casino or police department about the tape.' Okay. What I'm going to ask you, did you ever become aware prior to imposing your second discipline that security people had not really spoken to the police department or the casino about getting the inside the elevator tape?"
Goodell: "I wasn't aware of the fact that they tried to get it from law enforcement. I do not know the specifics."
Goodell and NFL head of security Jeffery B. Miller also said they never asked Rice’s defense lawyer for a copy of the video showing what happened inside the elevator. Rice testified during the hearing that he would have allowed his lawyer to give a copy of the video to NFL officials.
Rice was initially suspended for two games after striking his then-fiancee (now wife) Janay in an Atlantic City casino elevator. His suspension was changed to “indefinite” after TMZ released a video from inside the elevator on September 8 that showed Rice punching Janay. Rice appealed the indefinite suspension.
Goodell said that Rice told him in a June meeting that he "slapped" Janay, causing her to fall and hit her head. It was the fall, Goodell said he understood, that knocked her unconscious.The commissioner said that the TMZ video presented new evidence, which allowed Rice to be punished again - and more severely - for the act.
The transcript from Rice's hearing outlines the former Ravens running back's testimony as it relates to the June meeting with Goodell. Rice refuted the commissioner's claim he had been "ambiguous" about the incident.
"I told the commissioner I hit her, she hit her head, and I did not ever mention that she slipped and hit her head and that's what knocked her out. Never mentioned to that extreme to an extent where a slap, that she slipped, hit her head and knocked herself out. Those words never came out of my mouth."
In her decision reinstating Rice, Jones wrote that she believed he did not lie to the NFL during the meeting with Goodell, making his indefinite suspension "arbitrary."
NFL executive vice president Adolpho Birch testified that, during the June meeting, he didn’t ask Rice to elaborate on his description of hitting Janay in the elevator because he “didn’t feel it was appropriate.”
In an interview with ESPN last month, Janay Rice said that Ray told Goodell “everything that happened” and detailed other aspects of the case, including her opinion that Goodell seemed like a "really reasonable and caring guy" during the meeting.
Janay, who attended the meeting with Goodell, said during an interview that aired earlier this month on NBC's Today show that Goodell wasn't being honest when he said Ray was "ambiguous" about hitting her in an Atlantic City casino elevator.
"I know for a fact ... that Ray told the honest truth that he's been telling from February," she said.
When asked if Goodell was honest when he said that her husband was “ambiguous” about hitting her in the elevator, Janay said, “I can't say he's telling the truth."
Goodell has come under intense scrutiny for his handling of the Rice case. Multiple reports have questioned his transparency throughout the process. NFL Players Association president Eric Winston said last month that he thinks Goodell’s credibility is “definitely lacking” among current players.
The Ravens also terminated Rice’s contract the day of the video's release – a move he filed a grievance over. A hearing for Rice’s grievance against the Ravens is set for January 15. The two sides can try to agree on a settlement deal before the hearing.
Goodell has said that the first time he saw the video was when it was released publicly and that the NFL was "never granted the opportunity" to see it prior to that. The Associated Press later reported that a law enforcement official said he sent a copy of the video to an NFL executive in April. The AP said it listened to a voicemail from an NFL employee confirming the office received it.
Goodell reportedly then ordered ex-FBI director Robert Mueller III to lead an independent investigation into the Rice case and how the NFL handled it.
ESPN later reported that Rice told Goodell on June 16 that he punched Janay in the elevator and knocked her unconscious. Goodell disputed that report in an interview with CBS, saying it was "inconsistent" with what Rice and his representatives told him at a disciplinary meeting.
In September, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti refuted a report that found "a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL" in the Rice case.
On Wednesday, the league announced that NFL owners voted unanimously to approve a revamped personal conduct policy. Under the new policy, Goodell will no longer be involved in the initial disciplinary proceeding, but he will be involved during appeals.