No National Football League employee had an advance look at the video of ex-Baltimore star rusher Ray Rice hitting his future wife in an elevator, an independent investigation found Thursday.
Former FBI director Robert Mueller said his probe, which lasted nearly four months, uncovered no evidence the NFL had advance viewing of the shocking video, which showed Rice knocking out Janay Palmer, his then-fiancee and now wife, in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino last February.
The report did say the league did not do enough to uncover evidence about the incident and should have conducted a more complete investigation before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued an initial two-game ban to former Ravens rusher Rice, who later was suspended indefinitely after the elevator video was made public by celebrity website TMZ.
“We concluded there was substantial information about the incident — even without the in-elevator video — indicating the need for a more thorough investigation,” Mueller said.
“The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident.”
Also in the wake of the knockout punch becoming public, Rice was released by the Ravens. While Rice won a legal appeal in November to overturn the indefinite suspension, he did not play in the 2014 NFL season and remains a free agent.
The affair and other issues involving players last year led the NFL to toughen its policy against domestic violence.
– Probe backs Goodell’s version –
Goodell had been widely criticized for too soft a penalty on Rice with the two-game ban.
It was an outcry that grew louder after a report said a law-enforcement official claimed he sent the NFL a copy of the elevator video in April and had an April 9 voicemail message from a woman at a league number confirming receipt of the package — sparking the league to have Mueller launch his probe.
Goodell said the league never saw the video of the actual punch until its release by TMZ and the probe supported his account.
“Despite extensive investigation, we found no evidence that anyone at the NFL had or saw the in-elevator video before it was publicly shown,” Mueller said.
“We also found no evidence that a woman at the NFL acknowledged receipt of that video in a voicemail message.”
Investigators spoke with Goodell and more than 50 NFL employees, all 188 women who had been in the NFL office building on the day of the supposed voicemail, and looked at e-mails from all league officials, many of which contradicted the notion they might have viewed the elevator video.
The probe also searched more than 400 NFL employee computers plus mobile phones of top NFL executives.
“We found no evidence the in-elevator video was or had been stored or viewed on a league computer prior to the video’s public release,” Mueller said.
The investigation also found no unexplained calls received by the NFL office after looking into 1,583 calls. A mailroom probe also found no evidence of a package meeting the video’s description.
Mueller said the NFL should have pressed harder for access to evidence.
“There was substantial information about the incident that should have put the league on notice of a need to undertake a more thorough investigation to obtain available evidence of precisely what occurred inside the elevator,” he said.
“Had the league done so, it may have uncovered additional information about the incident, possibly including the in-elevator video prior to its public release.”
In concluding, Mueller suggested the NFL expand its security department and create an investigative team for sex assault and domestic abuse cases.