By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Before Ted Wells was DeflateGate P.I., he was known in NFL circles for his scathing investigative report on Richie Incognito and the “bullying culture” of the Miami Dolphins.
The 144-page report tore down many reputations, including then-offensive line coach for the Dolphins, Jim Turner, who lost his job in the wake of the report’s release and struggled for years to find work.
Turner said publicly that “Wells is not a good human being” and that the investigator targeted Turner when the coach did not obey every command asked of him. Turner said his testimony to Wells was omitted from the final report as part of a “railroading” effort by Wells.
“Independent investigator my [butt],” Turner succinctly said last year.
Later in 2015, Turner sued Wells of the Paul Weiss firm for defamation, because he “believes Wells’ report on the Dolphins negatively and perhaps permanently affected his ability to land another NFL coaching job.” Though Turner has since found employment, the case is being fought in court at this time, and attorney Daniel Wallach shared a story on Twitter on Wednesday night that displayed some striking similarities to the never-ending DeflateGate saga.
The story, reported by Shayna Posses for Law360, detailed the fight from Wells to not allow for discovery in the case. Turner’s side filed a motion Wednesday arguing that discovery should be allowed, and the coach’s words were quite clear.
Crucial to Turner’s argument, per the report, was the presence of “a high-ranking National Football League official” who “attended many of the interviews conducted during their supposedly independent investigation.”
“This official’s presence at these interviews supports plaintiff’s allegations that defendants were taking their instructions from the NFL and tailored their findings, and ultimately the Wells report, to the NFL’s agenda,” Turner’s motion argued.
You’ll recall, of course (perhaps), that one of the more significant arguments made in defense of Tom Brady was along the exact same lines — that the NFL was granted access to the interview notes of the Paul Weiss firm while Brady’s lawyers were not, and that Jeff Pash (a high-ranking NFL official) played a significant role in shaping a purportedly “independent” investigation.
Commissioner Roger Goodell — or a subcommittee headed by Troy Vincent and “overseen” by Goodell, if you believe him — relied wholly on the results of the Wells report as a basis for the punishment issued to the Patriots (two draft picks, $1 million fine) and Brady (four-game suspension). The deceptive practices of scientific consulting firm Exponent have already been exposed numerous times by many different scientific experts, and many of the unjust practices of the Wells investigation came to light when Judge Richard Berman ordered the transcript of Brady’s appeal at NFL headquarters to be made public.
At that point of the process, with a Paul Weiss attorney who participated in Wells’ investigation being the one questioning Brady at the appeal hearing, the NFL had completely stopped feigning any independence whatsoever behind closed doors. Nevertheless, the commissioner continued touting the “independence” of the report — just as he had in the Wells investigation of Incognito and the Dolphins.
In the case of Turner, Wells is trying desperately to avoid a discovery process. His request in February was denied by the court, per the report, but he filed another request last week to delay discovery.
While the outcome of this case won’t necessarily have any legal bearing on the current Brady/NFL fight in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Turner’s case remains one to watch for those interested in what really goes on in an NFL-sponsored Ted Wells investigation. If messages and orders from the NFL (and Goodell) to Wells became public knowledge, then Turner’s claim that Wells was always “going to print the story that [the NFL] want printed” could be proven true.
And indeed, the presence of this “high-ranking NFL official” at many of Wells’ interviews most certainly sheds a light on the lack of independence in the Miami investigation, just as the role of Pash as co-investigator and editor of the New England investigation was and remains highly questionable.
It may not matter much in the process of Brady’s appeal to the Second Circuit (and perhaps beyond), but Turner’s fight for discovery nevertheless represents a promising sign of hope for anybody who hopes to one day learn what really went on, both in the Miami investigation and in the bizarre circus known affectionately as “DeflateGate.”