The account, offered to ABC News by the NFL’s chief spokesman Brian McCarthy, lays out a series of phone calls, written communications and in-person attempts to track down information about the assault and video evidence of the alleged assault. All of it, league officials have said repeatedly, was unsuccessful. That is why NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has insisted he was surprised when leaked surveillance video of the assault appeared on TMZ.
“We reached out to multiple law enforcement agencies and a court, but were unable to come up with the video,” McCarthy said. “With each of these efforts it was ‘give us everything.’”
Who was contacted by the NFL and when have become central focuses of the domestic-abuse scandal now engulfing the league and jeopardizing the commissioner’s career atop the most valuable sports organization in the country. Goodell, who has apologized repeatedly, has insisted efforts were made to find out what Rice had done to Janay Palmer, now his wife.
The NFL and Goodell came under scathing criticism for initially punishing Rice, a star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, with just a two game suspension. After the surveillance video became public, Goodell acknowledged falling short suspended Rice indefinitely from the NFL.
The new account partially backs up Goodell’s comments Sept. 10 when he was asked why the league hadn’t seen video of Rice’s punch prior to its appearance online. “On multiple occasions, we asked for it. And on multiple occasions we were told no,” Goodell told CBS News.
NFL personnel, McCarthy said, made their first attempt to get information Feb. 19, four days after the assault at the now-closed Revel casino resort on the Boardwalk. That day, Jim Buckley, an NFL security representative based in New Jersey, called the Atlantic City Police Department asked Ava Davenport, supervisor of the records division, for the incident report, McCarthy said. Buckley was told to file an open records request. He was also told the publicly available documents were unlikely to elaborate beyond news accounts of the elevator attack, according to McCarthy.
The NFL also says that on the same day, Buckley called the Atlantic County Solicitor’s Office in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the deputy solicitor. The county’s solicitor acts as civil counsel and has no role in law enforcement.
The next day, Feb. 20, NFL representatives attended a meeting with New Jersey State Police to review their collaboration on Super Bowl XLVIII, which had been played three weeks earlier at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. At that meeting, McCarthy said, NFL security chief Jeffrey Miller and others raised the Rice episode with unnamed members of the state police.
“We asked New Jersey State Police commanders for help, but they were unable to assist because they said they were not involved in the investigation,” McCarthy said.
The State Police spokesman, Capt. Stephen Jones, confirmed McCarthy’s statement. The State Police, however, have no official record of those conversations.
From that date until June 6, the NFL didn’t ask again. Then, league officials made what turned out to be their final attempt to obtain information about the Rice incident. Buckley, the security rep, that day contacted Jill Houck, pre-trial intervention director at the Atlantic County Superior Court, according to McCarthy. She approved Rice’s entry into a probationary program that effectively let him avoid formal prosecution. McCarthy said that Houck was asked to supply any and all information, including video, about the case. She told the league the police report was not available, but she sent a copy of the publicly filed March 27 indictment via fax.
McCarthy said these details and more would be included in the report of former FBI Director Robert Mueller, now a partner at a major Washington law firm, who was hired by the league to investigate the way the NFL handled the Rice case.
The league’s account contradicts information provided to ABC News by the the Atlantic City Police Department. An assistant city attorney in Atlantic City, Benjamin Kaufman, told ABC News he could find no record of any communication between the NFL and either the police or City Hall.
ABC News has also learned that there is no record the NFL made any effort to contact the two specific agencies that had copies of the video: the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey Gaming Enforcement Division. Both agencies, in response to records requests, told ABC News they have nothing on file confirming contact with the NFL.