Saints seeking legal recourse against ESPN for Loomis report

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 23 at 9:38 PM

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

NEW ORLEANS -- Saints general manager Mickey Loomis is once again under fire, this time for allegedly having an electronic device re-wired in his Superdome suite so he could listen to opposing coaches during games at the Superdome, according to an ESPN report.

Greg Bensel, vice president of communications for the Saints, vehemently denied the allegations quickly after they initially aired on ESPN, which cut into NFL Draft programming at 2:45 p.m., to break the news.

“This report is 1000 percent false,” Bensel said. “Completely inaccurate. We asked ESPN to provide us evidence to support their allegations and they refused. The team and Mickey are seeking all legal recourse regarding these false allegations.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office confirmed that allegations have been made.

"All I can do is simply confirm that we were made aware of this allegation on Friday," U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said. "We really can't say much more. I can't indicate what action we took, except to say we always go by the book."

According to the ESPN report, Loomis took advantage of an electronic device installed by former general manager Randy Mueller. While Mueller used the device to listen into coaches’ calls by Saints staff members, ESPN alleges that Loomis had the device re-wired so he could listen into opposing coaching staff’s offensive and defensive calls.

The device stayed this way from 2002, when Loomis took over as general manager, through the 2004 season and was only rendered inoperative after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ESPN said.

Loomis, in a statement released Monday afternoon, called the report "absolutely false."

"I have a monitor in front of me in my booth that provides the league issued stats for the game," Loomis said. "I have a small TV with the network broadcast and I have an earpiece to listen to the WWL-AM radio (flagship broadcaster) game broadcast.

"To think I am sitting in there listening and actually and or doing something with the offensive and defensive play calls of the opposing teams makes this story and the unnamed sources that provided the false information that much more less credible…it just didn’t happen."

If Loomis is found to have taken advantage of the system, he could face state and federal charges depending on when it was last used. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 has a statute of limitations of five years.

The NFL, through spokesman Greg Aiello, said the league was unaware of the allegations.

Jim Haslett was the head coach during the years in question, going 12-12 at home and 25-23 overall. Haslett was fired following the 2005 season and has since been hired by the Washington Redskins as the team’s defensive coordinator.

"At no time during my tenure as head coach with the New Orleans Saints did Mickey and I discuss monitoring opposing team coaches communication, nor did I have any knowledge of this," Haslett said. "To my knowledge this concept was never discussed or utilized."

The case is reminiscent of the Patriots’ “Spygate” scandal in 2007, when New England was caught videotaping opponent’s defensive hand signals during a September game against division rival the New York Jets.

New England was fined $250,000 and their first-round pick in 2008 while coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for his role in the scandal.

Still, that Loomis is involved in these latest allegations could be trouble for him.

He’s already suspended for eight games this season for his role in the Saints’ pay-for=performance scandal. According to the NFL, Loomis was told about a bounty program that the league had uncovered and failed to properly halt it.

Loomis also was involved in a scandal in 2010 in which he was to have alleged to have asked the Saints’ former chief of security, Geoff Santini, to cover-up theft of Vicodin from the Saints facility by assistant head coach Joe Vitt.

That investigation was taken behind closed doors when Santini withdrew his lawsuit after the franchise filed for arbitration.

See full ESPN story

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