Judge tosses Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell

A New Orleans federal judge has dismissed Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, thus bringing a close to nearly all of the legal action in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.

Judge Helen Berrigan found Vilma's claims, and the evidence to support them, to be insufficient and upheld Goodell's right to investigate conduct detrimental to the league under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

But Berrigan took a swipe at Goodell's initial investigation and the pall the entire situation placed over the Saints' season.

"While the Court is extremely disturbed by the fundamental lack of due process in Goodell's denying the players the identities of and the right to confront their accusers, that was substantially rectified later in the process," Berrigan wrote. "So while the process was initially procedurally flawed, the statements were ultimately found to have enough support to defeat the defamation claims."

Vilma was initially suspended for the entire season. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who heard the players' appeals after Goodell upheld his own decision, vacated all of the suspensions of the players involved. But Tagliabue confirmed Goodell's factual findings a bounty program had been in place.

"We are obviously disappointed, strongly believe that the CBA does not give anyone -- including a commissioner -- a license to misrepresent and to manufacture facts, especially at the expense of another person's reputation, and are considering our options," said Peter Ginsberg, Vilma's attorney.
The Saints, without head coach Sean Payton for the entire season as well as interim coach Joe Vitt for the first six games, went 7-9. It was their first losing season since 2007.

"Even though this matter has been pending only since May of this year, it feels as protracted and painful as the Saints season itself, and calls for closure," Berrigan wrote. "The Court nonetheless believes that had this matter been handled in a less heavy handed way, with greater fairness toward the players and the pressures they face, this litigation and the related cases would not have been necessary."

The only pending legal action left pertaining to the bounty case is a class-action suit filed by a Saints season-ticket holder, who is claiming the value of his tickets was affected by the bounty case. The league has filed a motion to dismiss that suit as well.

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus