ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (KDKA/AP) – A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée to an NFL executive five months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.
The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”
The law enforcement official, speaking to the AP on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, says he had no further communication with any NFL employee and can’t confirm anyone watched the video. The person said he was unauthorized to release the video but shared it unsolicited, because he wanted the NFL to have it before deciding on Rice’s punishment.
The NFL now says former FBI director Robert Mueller III will be conducting a probe into how the league handled evidence in the Ray Rice case.
The NFL has repeatedly said it asked for but could not obtain the video of Rice hitting Janay Palmer — who is now his wife — at an Atlantic City casino in February.
The league says it has no record of the video, and no one in the league office had seen it until it was released by TMZ Monday. When asked about the voicemail Wednesday, NFL officials repeated their assertion that no league official had seen the video before Monday.
“We have no knowledge of this,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Wednesday. “We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it.”
The person said he sent a DVD copy of the security camera video to an NFL office and included his contact information. He asked the AP not to release the name of the NFL executive, for fear that the information would identify the law enforcement official as the source.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games following the February incident, but the Ravens released Rice on Monday and the NFL suspended him indefinitely after the website TMZ released the video.
Goodell told CBS on Tuesday that “no one in the NFL, to my knowledge” had seen a new video of what happened on the elevator until it was posted online.
“We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity,” Goodell said.
In a memo to the NFL’s 32 teams on Wednesday, Goodell said that the league asked law enforcement for the video, but not the casino. “In the context of a criminal investigation, information obtained outside of law enforcement that has not been tested by prosecutors or by the court system is not necessarily a reliable basis for imposing league discipline,” he wrote.
The video, shown to the AP on Monday, is slightly longer than the TMZ version, and includes some audio.
Rice and Janay Palmer — now Janay Rice — can be heard shouting obscenities at each other, and she appears to spit at Rice right before he throws a brutal punch. After she collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. One of them can be heard saying, “She’s drunk, right?” And then, “No cops.”
Rice had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record. A prominent New Jersey lawmaker called Tuesday for that decision to be reviewed.
Twelve members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Goodell Wednesday, demanding he be more transparent with who knew what, and when.
KDKA’s John Shumway Reports:
The National Organization for Women want Goodell to step down.
“I lost a lot of respect for him the way he’s handled this,” says Ron Cook, host on 93-7 The Fan.
Cook and Andrew Filliponi on 93-7 The Fan have seen the focus switch from Rice to the commissioner’s credibility.
“He has a history now of saying one thing, and really when you uncover and look at the facts, it’s completely different,” said Filliponi
As for Rice’s exile, Goodell is not ruling out Rice playing again.
“I don’t know if a team will take a chance on him at this stage of his career,” said Cook. “We live in a forgiving society, you say you’re sorry and pay your price to society, you always get a second chance.”
Hours after portions of the video were made public by TMZ, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely and Baltimore terminated his contract. He had originally been suspended for two games, and team officials had praised him for his apologies and actions after his arrest for aggravated assault.
Goodell and team officials said they were taking more severe action because of the violence in the video.
Meanwhile, the scandal has heightened awareness of domestic violence as a national issue.
Domestic violence usually happens behind closed doors, and indeed the elevator doors were closed when Rice can be seen on the video slamming his fist into the face of Palmer last February, knocking her unconscious.
Even without sound, it’s brutal to watch.
KDKA’s Mary Robb Jackson Reports:
“You see the tape and you go, ‘Wow!’ And you’re shocked, but this happens every day,” says Kimberly, a victim of domestic violence.
Kimberly was abused by her husband for 15 years before moving out with two kids a dozen years ago.
“He threatened my life, ‘I’m gonna kill you. No one will ever find your body,’” says Kimberly.
Now working at the Women’s Center and Shelter, she later learned how right she was to leave.
“After we split up, and he remarried, he murdered his wife, the new wife,” Kimberly said.
Even so, Kimberly does not judge 26-year-old Janay Palmer, who began dating Rice in high school. They have a baby girl named Rayven.
“Until you here someone’s story over a period of time, we can’t pass judgment on her,” says Kimberly.
“Maybe he promised her as soon as she woke up, ‘I’m so sorry, that’ll never happen again.’ You hear that a lot, and you want to believe it,” adds Kimberly.
Palmer continues to defend her husband, and even took some responsibility for her part in the fight.
On social media, she said, “I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night, but I can say that I am happy we continue to work through it.”
“Maybe it’ll work out for them,” says Kimberly. “God Bless, because so many families are broken up because of it.”
One out of every three women in this country will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Every six hours a woman dies as a result of it. Those statistics have faces, and the Women’s Center and Shelter is there for those who decide they’ve had enough.
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