Ray Rice Appeal: He Needs Better Advice

Written by  Cedric Hopkins September 22, 2014
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NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Ray Rice’s chief argument for his appeal will be that Roger Goodell suspended him based on an edited video of what transpired inside the elevator, not the full video. TMZ, reportedly, released an abbreviated video that didn’t show the incident in its entirety.

If Rice is making that his benchmark argument, then he needs better advice.

The pivotal piece to Rice’s appeal will be what took place at the June 16 disciplinary meeting with Roger Goodell. There was a host of people at the meeting, including Ravens president Dick Cass, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, and NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, along with other NFL and NFLPA representatives.

According to multiple sources quoted by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Rice was completely honest with respect to the abuse he delivered to his fiancé in the elevator—he gave Goodell, and all others present, a complete account of what transpired. In other words, he didn’t lie.

Following that meeting, Goodell decided on a 2-game suspension for Rice. It was final.

What Rice will need to focus on for his appeal is that meeting, not whether there is a longer video of the abuse he inflicted. After all, a longer video showing the same abuse does nothing to help Rice.

Surely, TMZ “cut to the chase” and released the relevant portion of the tape showing the abuse. It is inconceivable that there could be anything on the unedited video that would provide Rice with some sort of exculpatory evidence.

Instead of concentrating on some unedited video, the bedrock of Rice’s appellate argument should be what Rice said or didn’t say at the June 16 meeting.

The question Rice should pose is this: if he told Goodell everything that happened on the elevator—as Harbough and Newsome have since said he did—and Goodell suspended Rice for two games, but only changed it to an indefinite suspension because of the backlash Goodell received after the inside-elevator video surfaced, why should that affect Rice?

Ray Rice_looking

Rice will argue that because no new evidence was actually considered between the first and second suspensions—he fully disclosed all events in and out of the elevator—he was first disciplined based upon all of the facts as they relate to him. The second punishment, Rice should argue, was as the facts as they related to the NFL and Goodell, not to Rice because Rice fully disclosed what Goodell saw inside the elevator.

I once represented a mother of three children with respect to a Child Protective Services case. She had a young daughter (age 6) removed from her home, but CPS allowed her two teenagers to remain with her while the case was ongoing.

The mother had tested positive for cocaine and had domestic violence issues with her family, which was confirmed by drug tests and police reports. One day after our initial hearing—where the judge affirmed placement of the two teenagers with my client—CPS removed the teenagers because of an argument that took place between my client and the CPS worker. No other evidence relating to child abuse or neglect came up. CPS simply retaliated against my client based on something other than the evidence they already had. The judge ordered the children back into the mother’s home.

That’s what Goodell did to Rice. He punished Rice the first time (2-game ban) for exactly what happened in the elevator. The second video came out, the public saw the punishment didn’t match the crime and called for blood. Goodell increased the punishment without any new evidence. If we were in criminal court, that would be a violation of the double jeopardy clause. But we’re not, so it may not.

To support Rice’s quasi-double jeopardy argument, Rice’s attorneys will have the benefit of statements made by Harbough and Newsome.

Harbough told ESPN The Magazine that Rice didn’t “sugarcoat” anything and “explained everything to a T.” Most importantly, Harbough said, “[Rice] told me the exact truth of what happened, and it held up all the way through.”

On September 10, after the release of the second video, Newsome said, “And what we saw on the [inside the elevator] video was what Ray said. Ray didn’t lie to me. He didn’t lie to me.”

Newsome and Harbaugh’s statements, along with statements from the Ravens’ head of security, Darren Sanders, who said he told Ravens officials of the details of what occurred inside the elevator, show that Goodell considered the entire body of evidence when levying the 2-game ban on Rice. Meaning, the NFL knew what took place inside the elevator. The only thing that changed was the form of the evidence: Rice’s words as to what he did compared to a video of what Rice did. But they are one in the same.

Goodell didn’t learn anything new by watching the second video. He knew Rice struck his fiancé. He knew it because Rice told him and because it was in the charging document: “Assault by attempting to cause bodily injury to J. Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino.”

Goodell has made statements that Rice did not fully disclose what occurred inside the elevator. Others dispute Goodell’s statements, including Harbaugh and Newsome.

Goodell’s apparent lies have provided Rice with what looks like a strong basis for appeal. But in actuality, Rice ultimately deserved the indefinite suspension that he finally received from Goodell.

Goodell was simply attempting to do his friends in the Ravens organization a favor with the 2-game suspension.  Rice’s appeal will end up being less about Rice and much more about Goodell—Goodell’s ability to flat out ignore a horrific domestic abuse situation, his willingness to lie to the public and his readiness to engage in a cover-up.

It goes without saying that Rice deserves an indefinite ban from the NFL. He should also be serving jail time. I’m not here to argue otherwise. But Rice is now in a position to put Goodell on the witness stand, under oath and under significant pressure. Rice has the opportunity, not to reduce his suspension—that’s just not going to happen—but to show Goodell abused his power in a way that shows he’s unfit going forward to serve as the NFL’s commissioner.

If Rice’s suspension doesn’t get reduced, and it shouldn’t, then that is conclusive proof that Goodell engaged in a level of corruption with Ravens officials that warrants him being fired.

Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins Bio

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).

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