On Friday the NFL announced that Dallas Cowboy’s Ezekiel Elliott will be suspended six games. Here is the transcript of the NFL’s conference call on their decision to suspend him.
Good afternoon, all. Peter Harvey, here. The commissioner has made a decision here that was his own. I served on an advisory committee. I was one of four advisors that offered my own opinion to the commissioner with respect to the extensive evidentiary record here. In my view, this was a very thorough investigation. You should know that, with respect to this advisory committee, the commissioner talked with each of us separately. We certainly did not tell the commissioner what to do; this was his decision to make. We were not authorized to decide anything, whether it be a violation or whether it be discipline. We also did not speak to the commissioner as a group. I played no role, and to my knowledge, none of the other advisors played any role, in preparing the letter. I did not see a draft of it. What we did do though, is we read the rather extensive record of the investigation. There were over 100 exhibits to the investigation. The investigative report exceeded 160 pages. We also reviewed, each of us individually, the submissions by Mr. Elliott’s representative. We studied both; we examined very carefully the defense arguments, and we came to the conclusion – at least, I reached the conclusion individually – that Mr. Elliott engaged in physical force against Ms. Thompson, and that it caused injury.
Let me share with you how I came to that conclusion myself. There is an eyewitness here. The eyewitness is Tiffany Thompson herself. She is a victim and a survivor. She took photos of her injuries. As the league examined the meta-data in the phone with respect to those photos, the league discovered the date on which those photos were taken. They were taken the same day as Ms. Thompson alleged she was injured by Mr. Elliott. We also examined the reports of two medical experts who are knowledgeable about violence issues, and evaluating injuries of violence. These medical experts corroborated many of the statements that Ms. Thompson made. We also examined the, as I said before, the submissions offered by Mr. Elliott’s representatives. One thing that was significant to us was that many of these people offered affidavits. They declined to be interviewed by the NFL’s investigators, which raised suspicions in our minds about the veracity of these witnesses. In at least one of the affidavits that I reviewed, the information was different in the affidavit than the witness gave to the NFL’s investigators when they talked to this particular witness. We also examined the arguments made by Mr. Elliott’s representatives, and the arguments seemed to be theoretical. They did not seem to be supported by any witness, any document, any other substantive evidence. And so as I evaluated the information, I came to the conclusion that physical force was used by Mr. Elliott against Ms. Thompson, that it caused her injury, and it violated, in my view, the personal conduct policy.
But again, I just gave my own opinion to the commissioner. He was free to make whatever decision he thought appropriate. It was also not lost on me that the Columbus district attorney, while not bringing any charges against Mr. Elliott, nonetheless said to NFL investigators that he believes Ms. Thompson. And you should note that the Columbus district attorney did not have available to him some of the evidence that was available to the NFL’s investigators. For example, while he had many of the photographs taken by Ms. Thompson, he did not have the meta-data to know that these photographs were taken the same day as she alleged she was injured by Mr. Elliott. I think the investigation conducted by the league was thorough, it was comprehensive, it was carefully done and it certainly provides substantial credible evidence to support the commissioner’s decision with respect to Mr. Elliott.
At least the evidence that had been made public to us said that Ms. Thompson might have texted her friends to quote on quote lie about where they were. Was your conclusion more based on the photographic evidence you guys saw or was it more of a he said/she said and you just sided with her more than him?
Peter Harvey: Well it starts with he said/she said, which is why an investigation is conducted. It became a lot more than he said/she said. For example, it’s uncommon for women to take photographs of their injuries the day that they occurred. She did that. She sent those photographs to third parties. The examination of the meta-data in her phone revealed the date and time on which those photographs were taken. Also, there were third parties who observed injuries on her body and in real time, on the same day, she had a conversation with at least one of these persons about the injury and who caused it. In addition to that, the league brought in two medical experts who examined the photographs and offered expert opinions with respect to the timing of the injury. Now, you raise a question and I don’t want to dodge it, you asked whether or not she had made a misstatement and a false statement. Yes, she did. Her false statement that was revealed was she accused Mr. Elliott of yanking her out of a car on July 21st, really it’s the morning of the 22nd, because I think it was after midnight. That did not happen. And she did ask one of her friends to tell the police that it did happen and the friend had the good sense not to do that. That is true. But as to other statements that she made, both to the Columbus DA as well as to NFL investigators, she was absolutely truthful about them. And by the way, the Columbus prosecutor knew about that false statement and still said to our investigators that he believed her and he believed that the injuries that she articulated to the Columbus DA’s office were caused by Mr. Elliott. He just didn’t believe he had sufficient evidence to prove the case based upon the criminal standard which as you know is beyond a reasonable doubt and that’s the highest standard known to American law.
You mentioned that the prosecutors didn’t have access. You used the example of the meta-data. How is it that the prosecutors did not have access to things that you all did?
Peter Harvey: Well, think of it this way, various prosecutor offices have various resources available to them. Some have technology that is available to them, others don’t. So that may be a question you want to put to them about it, but what I can tell you is that the National Football League did investigate the meta-data that was in Ms. Thompson’s phone to determine whether or not the photographs taken were of the same date as she alleged in her statements to us and to determine the date and time of the photographs.
You talked about when you met with Elliott’s representatives, basically their argument was more theoretical than anything. Can you talk about that a little more, do you think they were evasive or misleading or kept information from you during this process? Was the altercation with Ms. Thompson, were those the only evidentiary points that were investigated during this?
Peter Harvey: Well, I really can’t speak about the investigation, I can tell you what I read in the report. But let me deal with your first question first. I don’t wish to characterize Mr. Elliott’s representative’s statements. Let me put it to you this way. Mr. Elliott’s representatives argued in a meeting that maybe Ms. Thompson fell down stairs. There was no witness to say she fell down stairs, and there were no photographs of her falling down stairs. Mr. Elliott’s representatives suggested that maybe because she was a server, what is called bottle service, that maybe she bumped into tables. There was no witness who saw Ms. Thompson bump into tables while serving anything. Mr. Elliott’s representatives suggested that maybe she was in a fight with another woman and the bruises, for example a bruise to her eye, and perhaps other bruises on her body, were sustained in that altercation. The NFL’s investigators talked to people who witnessed that altercation and it was revealed that neither woman landed a punch on the other, they pulled each other’s hair but they never hit each other with a balled-up fist or in any other way. Mr. Elliott’s representatives also suggested that maybe someone else did it, except there was never someone else who was revealed and identified as the person who would have done this. What the NFL investigators learned was that on at least four nights between July 16th and July 21st, 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. So while alternative theories are interesting, in my judgment they have to be supported by evidence and that was lacking in this particular situation.
Was anything outside of domestic violence considered in making this decision or was this solely an investigation of domestic violence accusations?
Joe Lockhart: The incidents that occurred during that week in July that we’ve identified, that Mr. Harvey just identified, and the St. Patrick’s Day incident, are the only two relevant incidents that were part of this investigation and this finding. No other incidents that have been reported played a factor in this finding, or in this investigation.
St. Patrick’s Day was investigated but was he guilty of something personal conduct-wise in that investigation or in that incident?
Joe Lockhart: In the letter that was sent to Mr. Elliott, we certainly cited poor judgment and questionable behavior. As far as the discipline, we did not think it rose to the level of an aggravating circumstance to add additional time to the suspension. Again, to your first question, these were the only two things that were looked at.
I want to make sure I have this right. Is Zeke being suspended for a violation of domestic violence policy or personal conduct policy?
Todd Jones: The is Todd Jones. The personal conduct policy has a number of potential violations, some of which require an enhanced level of punishment. But I think that the findings make it clear that there were several incidents substantiated of physicality between Mr. Elliott and Ms. Thompson that serve as the foundation of the suspension.
I’m not sure who would best take this or maybe everybody. There have been comments from Jerry Jones throughout this process, more or less supporting Elliott and saying there is really nothing to see here. I’m paraphrasing. He didn’t think there was going to be any discipline, no real reason for discipline. Is there any reaction to that, or in general, NFL principles or executives or coaches even commenting on an ongoing investigation?
Joe Lockhart: I don’t think we have a comment one way or the other on anything that anyone else in this case, involved in this case or that has looked at this case or commented on this case. I can say that we believe this investigation was thorough, exhaustive and fair to all parties involved.