The Baltimore Ravens organization may not have actually seen the infamous second video from within the elevator showing Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee, but within hours of Rice's arrest it had received a detailed description of the footage, according to a report by ESPN's Outside the Lines. The Ravens then asked for leniency from the NFL, and were granted it by Roger Goodell as a "favor" to the owner.
Ravens director of security Darren Sanders phoned the Atlantic City police shortly after Rice's Feb. 15 arrest, according to the report. He was then given a play-by-play of the surveillance video by a police officer, who told Sanders he was a Ravens fan. Sanders then relayed that information to the team executives in Baltimore.
In early April, the Ravens reportedly contacted Rice's attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, who had by then seen the second video. He allegedly told team president Dick Cass that the footage was "f---ing horrible." Contrary to claims made by owner Steve Bisciotti, the team never requested the video from Diamondstein.
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Outside the Lines, which spoke to more than 20 sources while building the report, claims that the Ravens in turn requested NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to give Rice a punishment of no more than two games. Goodell reportedly granted that request -- Rice was indeed initially suspended for two games -- "as a favor to his good friend Bisciotti."
The report does not indicate that Goodell or other league officials ever saw the video, something the commissioner reiterated in his Friday press conference. Goodell has repeatedly claimed that the account of the incident given to him by Rice was "inconsistent" with what the video showed.
Outside the Lines claims that Bisciotti, Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome, after being debriefed on the incident, "began extensive public and private campaigns pushing for leniency for Rice."
The prosecution initially refused a pretrial intervention deal for Rice, but changed its mind after receiving 30 letters written on Rice's behalf, some of which were from Ravens execs.
The Ravens have used the fact that they did not have access the video from within the elevator as an excuse to claim ignorance for what occurred inside of it. On Sept. 9, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti released a statement claiming the organization was unable to obtain access to video from inside the elevator, despite requesting it from the casino, local police and the prosecutor's office. The statement claimed the team ceased searching for the tape -- and fact-finding altogether -- in March after Rice's initial charges of simple assault were upgraded to aggravated assault.
Bisciotti claimed in that statement that the first time that he and the rest of the Ravens brass saw the second video was on Sept. 8 when it was released publicly by TMZ.
"It is violent and horrifying," Bisciotti's statement said of the video. "I immediately came to the office and called a meeting with Dick Cass, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and Kevin Byrne. The meeting was relatively short. The decision to let Ray Rice go was unanimous. Seeing that video changed everything. We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously. We didn't and we were wrong."
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The NFL is currently awaiting the findings of an independent investigation headed by former FBI director Robert Mueller. Neither the investigators nor the league provided comment when contacted by Outside the Lines, which raised concerns over the investigation itself. The two men chosen to oversee it, New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers co-owner Art Rooney II, are described as "close confidants of Goodell." CNN's Rachel Nichols challenged Mueller's selection during Goodell's Friday press conference, pointing out that Mueller's law firm was the same one that negotiated the league's deal with DirecTV.