CONFERENCE CALL RE: EZEKIEL ELLIOTT DISCIPLINARY DECISION
August 11, 2017
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?
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
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
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.
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For the audio of the conference call, click here