Vilma moves forward with defamation lawsuit

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 12, 2012 at 6:51 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 12 at 7:02 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Jonathan Vilma is asking a federal judge to allow him to move forward with his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The request came one day after former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, acting as an arbitrator, waived Vilma's year-long suspension in an alleged pay for hits bounty program.

Wednesday, Vilma talked to reporters after practice.

"Well the most important part of me being able to play now and not having to worry about a lingering suspension, that part is over," Vilma said Wednesday during the team's open media session. "I'm excited about that. The next part is really, that's outside of football. That's talking about attacking a man's character, attacking a man's integrity."

"To me, one of the the most significant reasons why he wants to move forward is so that the general public can find out exactly what the facts were, what happened, and in his opinion clear his name," said Eyewitness News Legal Analyst Donald "Chick" Foret.

Vilma also asked Judge Ginger Berrigan to take action that could force the league to show all of the evidence it used to make the claims against him and three other players.

"I'm hoping, as I've said before, that Judge (Ginger) Berrigan will allow that and then whether it becomes public or not, we'll get down to the bottom of everything," Vilma said. "You still have people saying there still was a bounty. You're still a liar. Things like that. It's unfortunate. I've told Judge Berrigan, I've told Goodell."

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith also talked about that evidence on "CBS This Morning."

"Having seen nearly 50,000 pages of evidence and nearly 20 hours of testimony, I know that there was no bounty put on players by Saints players," said Smith.

Smith is a former prosecutor in Washington, DC. He said the NFL should apologize for maligning the character of good players.

"The investigation that the league did was sloppy," said Smith. "The investigation that they did was more outcome focused and frankly process focused. If they believe they are right, the one thing Roger Goodell could do is simply release the transcripts and we will all know the truth."

According to the defamation lawsuit, Goodell's statements linking Vilma to an alleged bounty scheme were reckless and false and damaged his reputation.

"What Commissioner Goodell has done to him and his reputation has no basis and is inexcusable, and Jonathan is going to do everything that he can to hold the commissioner responsible," said Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsberg.

"We all know that a defamation action is very difficult to prove, particularly in this situation where Jonathan Vilma, the plaintiff is a public figure," said Foret.

"The only thing you hear about when you mention Jonathan is bounty - either he did it or he didn't do it," said Vilma. Some people believe me, some people don't regardless of the outcome. This is what lingers from, for a lack of a better word, a messed up situation for what Goodell did."

Late Wednesday, Berrigan ruled that her order allowing the NFL to withhold its bounty probe evidence will remain in place at least for now.

She plans to revisit the stay order after ruling on the league's motion to dismiss the Vilma lawsuit.

 

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