FIRM HANDLES ELLIOTT’S APPEAL

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott’s attorney rips media, wants NFL investigation ended [Sports Illustrated]

The attorney for Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott criticized the media for focusing on the league’s investigation of his client.

Elliott’s attorney, Frank Salzano, said the NFL is only investigating Elliott because of the backlash it received over its domestic violence policies. Most recently, former New York Giants placekicker Josh Brown was given a one-game suspension, placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list and ultimately released after allegations of multiple domestic violence incidents with his now ex-wife. Two years ago it botched the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported on Sunday that Elliott could still face “a lengthy suspension” at the conclusion of the ongoing investigation.

“For the past several days the media has elected to focus on allegations of domestic violence involving Mr. Elliott despite the Columbus, Ohio Prosecutor’s Office decision not to charge Mr. Elliott nearly two months ago,” Salzano said in a statement. “As previously reported, the prosecutor’s office conducted a thorough seven-week investigation whereby in their own words they ‘dotted every I and crossed every T’ and concluded there was no credible evidence to file any charges against Mr. Elliott. My office provided a mountain of exculpatory evidence demonstrating Mr. Elliott’s innocence and directly contradicting all of the false allegations contained in the Accuser’s two police reports as first reported on July 22, 2016.”

According to those police reports, Elliott’s ex-girlfriend alleged that the rookie assaulted her in a car.

Elliott denied the allegations and authorities declined to bring charges. Witnesses told authorities they didn’t see Elliott assault the woman and Elliott says the woman got bruises and abrasions in a bar fight.

“Yet the media has chosen to deflect the recent negative press regarding the NFL’s reported mishandling of several domestic violence matters by focusing on the NFL’s prolonged investigation of Mr. Elliott,” Salzano said.

The NFL reportedly interviewed Elliott over a month ago, while Salzano called the investigation “a non-story.”

Salzano also said that he believes the NFL will clear Elliott of any wrongdoing, and added that the league should shut down its investigation of Elliott, “which is only open because of their apprehensiveness stemming from the recent scrutiny it has come under for its handling of other domestic violence matters.”

Elliott leads the NFL with 799 rushing yards and has scored five touchdowns for the NFL East-leading Cowboys.

– Scooby Axson

Nov 1, 2017 (https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/11/01/dallas-cowboys-ezekiel-elliott-nfl-investigation)

Here’s a look at the major legal players in the Ezekiel Elliott case [Star Telegraph]

When Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott was notified by the NFL on Aug. 11 that he was suspended without pay for the team’s first six games, it set off days of legal maneuvering.

There has been an arbitration hearing, a lawsuit and more lawsuits.

Elliott is suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Elliott’s former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, who attended college at Ohio State University along with Elliott, accused Elliott of domestic violence on several occasions.

With or without Elliott, the Cowboys open the regular season Sunday night against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium.

Here’s a look at the major legal players in the Elliott case:

 Arbitrator Harold Henderson: Henderson has spent 16 years as the NFL’s executive vice president for labor relations and chairman of respondent National Football League management council’s executive committee. He is best known for handling the appeals of former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy and running back Adrian Peterson, who is now with New Orleans.

Kia Roberts: Roberts is the director of investigations for the NFL. She conducted the league’s investigation of Thompson’s accusations against Elliott, interviewed Thompson six times, and compiled many of the notes that were the basis for the Elliott Report. She formerly worked in the Brooklyn (N.Y.) District Attorney’s office. She attended Duke University and Vanderbilt University Law School, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Lisa Friel: Friel is the special counsel for investigations for the NFL. She was a co-author of the Elliott Report. She formerly worked in the New York County District Attorney’s office. She was appointed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. She is responsible for all investigations related to possible violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy

Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum: They are attorneys for Elliott. Salazano has handled contracts and litigation for many celebrities, including Michael Jackson.

Jeff Kessler and Heather McPhee: They are attorneys for the National Football League Players Association. Kessler is best-known in NFL circles for representing Ray Rice, Tom Brady, and the “Bountygate” players.

-By David Humphrey

September 05, 2017 (http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/nfl/dallas-cowboys/article171377027.html)

Elliott testifies at appeal; Jerry Jones maintains NFL has no evidence [Star Telegraph]

As suspended Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott took the proverbial witness stand in his own defense at his appeal hearing with the NFL in New York on Tuesday, owner Jerry Jones expressed support for his star player and frustration with the league.

Sources confirmed an NFL Network report that Elliott testified to league arbitrator Harold Henderson in his attempt to get the six-game personal conduct suspension for domestic violence against former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson reduced or vacated.

Per a source, the hearing, which began on Tuesday, could stretch two or three days, but at least through Wednesday.

Jones did not attend the hearing, but had a Cowboys lawyer there supporting Elliott’s defense team of Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum as well as two attorneys from the National Football League Players Association, Jeffrey Kessler and Heather McPhee, who both have had previous litigation success against NFL.

Jones continues to maintain that the league had “no evidence” and no cause to suspend Elliott.

Per a source, the league has no verifiable proof that it was Elliott who cause injury to Thompson or was the source of her bruises in photographic and metadata evidence.

The pictures don’t show Elliott in the act of committing domestic violence and there were no witnesses.

So the evidence would not hold up in a court of law, per a source.

“Unfortunately you get confused in this conversation,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “Every person that has any sense at all understands domestic violence and abhors it. On the other hand, I’ve had a lot of experience in this area. For 10 years before I bought the Cowboys, I was the head of battered women of Arkansas. I raised more money and been in more safe houses than a lot of people that talk about it and so it’s a terrible problem.

“On the other hand with what we are today and what we’re trying to be relative to addressing it in the league, [it] has all kinds of issues and it should. It’s a very complicated issue because you have no evidence here. That’s all I want to say about it. But it creates quite a convoluted approach by Zeke’s representatives and by the league that I really hate is a focus of all of our attention. I do. Even though others would say that the issue needs this kind of focus and you’re using the NFL for visibility.”

When the league suspended Elliott on Aug. 11, following a 13-month investigation into claims made by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson, it concluded that there was “substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision was aided by a four-member advisory committee, including Peter Harvey, former attorney general of New Jersey; Ken Houston, a Hall of Fame player; Tonya Lovelace, chief executive of the Women of Color Network Inc.; and Mary Jo White, former U.S. attorney and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He also cited photographic evidence and testimony of medical professionals.

Again, per a source, the league has no verifiable proof that it Elliott who cause injury to Thompson or was the source of the bruises. The pictures don’t show Elliott in the act of committing domestic violence and there were no witnesses.

So the evidence would not hold up in a court of law, per a source.

It essentially boiled down to a situation of the league believing Thompson more than it did Elliott.

Elliott was never charged or arrested in the incident as the Columbus, Ohio, city attorney’s office cited inconsistent and misleading information.

Elliott’s team promised a vigorous defense, while blasting the league for their “factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions.”

They also promised “a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light” upon appeal.

They plan to question Thompson’s motive and credibility at the appeal, citing threats to ruin his career and discussions about blackmailing him for sex videos.

The NFL was aware of those incidents when rendering the initial decision.

It’s unlikely that Henderson would vacate the suspension barring the presentation of new evidence, according to a source.

He also will not be inclined to reduce the suspension without any evidence of contrition and admittance of responsibility from Elliott.

If Elliott does sue the NFL in attempt to obtain a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, it could delay his suspension, allowing him to open the season with the team.

Henderson could have a decision made as early as Friday when final briefs are due, according to a source.

Jones refused to speculate on a time frame and expressed confidence in Elliott’s defense team.

“He has as qualified a people representing him as I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “They really have got the first team in there and so these are the kinds of things strategy-wise that you play as you see it. I know that Zeke’s counsel and his direction has been thought through thoroughly, and so I know that to be the case. As you know I am and should be taking the stance of not really commenting on this at this time from the standpoint of a personal role with the Cowboys.”

The Cowboys have tried to support Elliott as much as possible throughout the situation.

Quarterback Dak Prescott tweeted #214 early Tuesday morning. It was a reference to their jersey numbers. Prescott is No. 4 and Elliott is 21.

Elliott made a necklace for each of them emblazoned with a diamond-studded 214.

“We’ve talked a little bit before he left and then just sent him ‘good luck,’ this morning, not exactly knowing what he’s going through, but I support him,” Prescott said.

Coach Jason Garrett also spoke to Elliott before he left and since he’s been in New York, offering support, encouragement and advice.

Garrett expects Elliott would return to Dallas Wednesday if the suspension hearing ended Tuesday.

Neither Elliott nor any of the starters are expected to play in Thursday’s preseason final against Houston Texans.

Garrett hopes Elliott learns from experience, but maintains there were no “red flags,” over his character or off-field issues when speaking to those at Ohio State before the Cowboys picked him fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.

“I think the biggest thing we try to do as an organization is provide the right structure for our players and particularly our younger players as they’re getting themselves acclimated to the NFL,” Garrett said. “We have a lot of resources in our building. We consider ourselves as coaches and as resources. We have player-engagement people. We have a lot of different people that can help our players grow and develop and mature. And if something comes up with a particular player, we try to address it head on to try to help him grow and learn from it.”

By Clarence Hill

August 29, 2017 (http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/nfl/dallas-cowboys/article169976137.html)

Ezekiel Elliott’s reps promise ‘a slew’ of new evidence to clear player’s name after six-game suspension [Washington Post]

Representatives for Ezekiel Elliott have made clear their intention to fight the six-game suspension the NFL dealt to the Dallas Cowboys running back on Friday after a lengthy investigation concluded the 22-year-old violated the league’s personal conduct policy when he allegedly “engaged in physical violence” against an ex-girlfriend last summer.

“Mr. Elliott and his team of representatives are extremely disappointed with the NFL’s decision,” Elliott’s attorneys Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum wrote in a statement (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). “The NFL’s findings are replete with factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions and it ‘cherry picks’ so-called evidence to support its conclusion while ignoring other critical evidence.”

To support their claim, Salzano and Rosenblum point to a specific incident that Elliott’s ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson was found to have told untruths about: that Elliott pulled her forcefully from a car on July 22, then asked her friend to vouch for it.


The NFL, however, did take that situation into account in its year-long investigation, said former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey, who served as one of the four external advisers to Commissioner Roger Goodell and reviewed the 160-page investigation report. He agreed that Thompson made a “false statement” and that the July 22 incident “did not happen,” but noted on a Friday afternoon conference call with reporters that there was much more “substantial credible evidence” that supported claims that the injuries Thompson suffered in the week prior were caused by Elliott.

Among the most compelling evidence, Harvey said, was smartphone metadata that showed photographs Thompson took of her bodily injuries were snapped on the same days she had spent with Elliott.

“What the NFL investigators learned was that on at least four nights between July 16 and July 21, Mr. Elliott and Ms. Thompson stayed together in the same apartment in the same bedroom. And so these injuries did not just, at least in my judgment, magically appear on her body,” Harvey said. “So while alternative theories are interesting, in my judgment they have to be supported by evidence and that was lacking in this particular situation.”

In their statement on Friday, however, Elliott’s team promised “a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light” in the coming weeks.

Elliott and the Cowboys now have three business days to file an appeal, and a hearing on that appeal must be held within 10 days of the notice of appeal. The hearing would be heard either by Commissioner Roger Goodell or a league official designated by Goodell.

Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported later Friday that Elliott will go to great legal lengths to clear his name, much as Tom Brady and the Patriots did during the Deflategate saga:

 

Should the six-game suspension hold up, Elliott’s first game back will be Oct. 29 against the Washington Redskins. Dallas’s first six games of the season are against the Giants, Broncos, Cardinals, Rams, Packers and 49ers. Elliott will not be allowed into the Cowboys’ training complex from whenever the suspension begins until it ends. Assuming the suspension stands, he will lose out on his base salary for the time missed — about $240,000 per game, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter — and will have to pay back some of the $16.350 million signing bonus he has received since joining the Cowboys as the fourth pick of the 2016 NFL draft.

 

“We are reviewing the decision and have been in touch with Ezekiel and his representatives to consider all options,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement emailed to The Post.

The NFL had been investigating Elliott for more than a year, with league officials looking into a number of incidents involving Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing yards and attempts during his rookie season in 2016. Elliott’s ex-girlfriend accused him of five incidents of domestic violence over a six-day period in July 2016, though prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, declined to press charges because of “conflicting and inconsistent information” from witnesses. Thompson, whom Harvey referred to as “a victim and a survivor” on the NFL’s conference call on Friday, also had accused Elliott of pushing her against a wall during a February 2016 incident in Florida. No charges were brought in that case, either, but both incidents were reviewed by NFL investigators.

In March, Elliott was filmed pulling down a woman’s shirt, exposing one of her breasts, while watching a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas.

The NFL said it interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, including Thompson, over the course of its investigation. It also consulted with medical experts and “examined all available evidence, including photographic and digital evidence, thousands of text messages and other records of electronic communications.”

“There is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that you engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016,” Todd Jones, the NFL’s special counsel for conduct, wrote in a letter to Elliott advising him of the league’s decision.

The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo obtained the letter from Jones to Elliott:

 

Harvey added in the conference call on Friday that Elliott’s representatives were not exactly forthcoming during the investigation.

“One thing that was significant to us is that … [Elliot’s representatives] offered affidavits and declined to be interviewed by investigators, which raised suspicions,” Harvey said. Harvey added that the arguments Elliott’s representatives made “seemed to be theoretical” and not substantiated by evidence.

“Mr. Elliot’s representatives argued in a meeting that maybe Ms. Thompson fell down stairs,” Harvey said. “There was no witness to say she fell down stairs and there was no photograph of her falling down stairs.” The representatives also proposed that Thompson could have injured herself bumping into tables while on the job as a restaurant server or could have gotten into a fight with another woman, Harvey said.

The NFL investigators, however, were not buying that. The “evidence does not support finding mitigating or aggravating factors,” it wrote to Elliott.

The league also told Elliott that it won’t be considering the St. Patrick’s Day incident for additional discipline but called it “inappropriate and disturbing.”According to reports, the league did not consider Elliott’s alleged participation in a July >altercation at a Dallas nightclub during which a D.J.’s nose was broken. Dallas police eventually suspended the investigation after they were unable to locate the victim.

Considering the alleged mood of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has issued public statements of support for his running back, an appeal seems likely.

 

By Matt Bonesteel and Marissa Payne

August 11, 2017 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2017/08/11/ezekiel-elliott-suspension-appears-imminent-is-six-games-on-the-table/?utm_term=.b3aa6e4f8845)