Walsh's attorney says NFL indemnification offer falls short
By Mike Fish
The attorney for Matt Walsh said the former New England Patriots video assistant is agreeable to providing information about the team's illegal taping practices, but as of Friday said the NFL has fallen short of his request for complete indemnification, which would protect Walsh from being sued.
Walsh, who was employed by the Patriots from 1996 to 2003, has suggested to ESPN.com that he has information that could be potentially damaging to the league and the Patriots. He has, to date, refused to provide specifics or turn over potential evidence without protection against potential lawsuits.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that the league will "absolutely'' offer indemnification in turn for Walsh's cooperation. But attorney Michael Levy said the offer presented him Monday by league counsel Jeffrey Pash does not meet the standards for indemnification agreements.
A standard indemnification agreement, Walsh's attorney said, protects against allegations of untruthfulness as long as there is not "bad faith.''
"The NFL's proposal is not full indemnification,'' Levy told ESPN.com. "It is highly conditional and still leaves Mr. Walsh vulnerable. I have asked the NFL to provide Mr. Walsh with the necessary legal protections so that he can come forward with the truth without fear of retaliation or litigation. To best serve the interest of the public and everyone involved, I am hopeful the NFL will do so promptly.''
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league believes it has adequately offered to provide Walsh coverage, if he is truthful.
"We offered immunity from litigation under two conditions, that he tell the truth and he return anything he took from the Patriots,'' Aiello said.
Sen. Arlen Specter, Republican leader on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been critical of the league's handling of Spygate and continues to investigate. Specter said he has the support of Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., though the importance of what his investigation uncovers will determine if there's a need for committee hearings.
Specter has been in communication with the attorney for Walsh, and the lawmaker believes the former Patriots employee is a key to his investigation.
Walsh's attorney said his trust of the NFL is an issue after learning a league security officer and former FBI agent, Dick Farley, had interviewed two of Walsh's former co-workers at a golf course on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Walsh, 31, has been an assistant golf pro at several courses in New England and Arizona since leaving the Patriots. He currently works at a course on Maui.
"Sending a former FBI agent to investigate his professional and personal life has not left Mr. Walsh feeling confident that the National Football League simply wants to encourage him to come forward with whatever information he has,'' Levy said.
Aiello, the NFL spokesman, acknowledged that the league has looked at public records to verify Walsh's employment history in "an effort to learn about him -- however that is done.''
Levy, head of the white-collar investigations and enforcement group at the Washington firm of McKee Nelson, said gaining Walsh's cooperation is dependent on the league's meeting his terms for complete indemnification, which he provided Thursday to the NFL's outside counsel, Gregg Levy.
Under the NFL's indemnification offer, Walsh's attorney said his client could still be sued if, for instance, the Patriots contested the accuracy of whatever information he comes forward with. That could prove an enormous cost battling an NFL franchise in court.
"It is very easy to allege someone has been untruthful even if it can't be proven'' Michael Levy said. "The NFL's proposal would leave Mr. Walsh completely unprotected against such an unproven allegation, because he would have to defend against it himself. And the NFL wants Mr. Walsh to give up the very materials he might need to prove his truthfulness.''
Someone could argue, according to both Levy and Specter, that Goodell was untruthful when he misconstrued facts in a Jan. 31, 2008, letter to Specter. While assuring Specter that the league's investigation uncovered no video taping chicanery by the Patriots leading up to their 2005 Super Bowl victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, Goodell wrote, "The two teams had only played one other game against each other in the current decade, a preseason game in the summer of 2003.''
In fact, the Super Bowl showdown was the fifth game between the teams in the preceding two-and-a-half years.
"Clearly, Commissioner Goodell should not seek to hold Mr. Walsh to a higher standard than the standard to which he would hold himself,'' said Levy. The attorney was careful to note that he does not believe Goodell acted in bad faith or was untruthful.