A report by former FBI Director Robert Mueller has found no evidence the NFL possessed a video that showed former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice punching his then fiancée, Janay Palmer, before the footage was publicly released.
But, the report noted, the league should have investigated the matter more thoroughly because even without the video there was enough information about the incident that took place in an elevator at an Atlantic City, N.J., casino.
“We found no evidence that anyone at the NFL had or saw the in-elevator video before it was publicly shown,” Mueller said in a statement.
As we reported last September, the National Football League brought in Mueller to investigate how the league handled the evidence in the Rice case.
At the time, The Associated Press had reported the NFL had possession of the video in February 2014; the video was publicly released that September. The AP story quoted an anonymous law enforcement official as saying the video was sent to an NFL executive, and that a voicemail from a woman acknowledged its receipt, with the words, “You’re right. It’s terrible.”
An NFL spokesman said at the time, “We are not aware of anyone who possessed or saw the video before it was made public.”
Today, Mueller agreed.
“We also found no evidence that a woman at the NFL acknowledged receipt of that video in a voicemail message on April 9, 2014,” he said. But, he added: “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.”
The video’s emergence prompted the NFL to suspend Rice indefinitely. Previously, the league had suspended him for two games after it saw another video from that night – this one showing the Ravens star dragging Palmer, who is now his wife, out the elevator.
An executive summary of Mueller’s report said investigators “collected, searched, and analyzed millions of documents, emails, and text messages from the League’s network.” Forensic searches of the league’s computers and mobile devices also found no evidence, it said. And, it added, the AP declined to share its information about the story with the inquiry.
But the AP adds: “The private investigation with no legal authority did not include any contact with the law enforcement official who showed the AP video of the incident.”
The report did note that the NFL had seen the video of Rice dragging Palmer; received a complaint-summons from the local police department, written by officers who had seen the video inside the elevator; and had a copy of a grand jury indictment against Rice.
“That information did not provide the graphic detail that the in-elevator video depicted, but it should have put the League on notice that a serious assault had occurred and that it should conduct a more substantial independent investigation,” the executive summary said.
It also noted that the NFL’s investigators didn’t contact police officers who looked into the incident, the local prosecutor’s office, or the casino where the incident occurred.
“No one from the League asked Rice or his lawyer whether they would make available for viewing the in-elevator video they received as part of criminal discovery in early April,” it added.
You can find Mueller’s full report here.
NPR’s coverage of this story is here.