Vilma wants defama­tion suit to pro­ceed

Good­ell ‘acted with reck­less dis­re­gard,’ line­backer says.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - By Brett martel Jon Vilma asks judge to re­ject mo­tion to dis­miss law­suit.

NEW OR­LEANS — Jon Vilma urged a fed­eral judge Fri­day to re­ject NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell’s mo­tion to dis­miss the defama­tion law­suit filed against him by the Saints line­backer.

Vilma’s re­quest to U.S. District Judge Gin­ger Ber­ri­gan ar­gues Good­ell acted with “reck­less dis­re­gard for the truth” when bas­ing ini­tial al­le­ga­tions about Vilma upon one fired Saints as­sis­tant, Mike Cerullo, whose tes­ti­mony has been in­con­sis­tent and chal­lenged by other wit­nesses in the NFL’s bounty probe of the Saints.

The mo­tion cen­ters on Good­ell’s pub­lic com­ments that Vilma held up $10,000 cash in a team meet­ing in 2010, of­fer­ing it to any­one who knocked Ari­zona quar­ter­back Kurt Warner out of a play­off game.

Dur­ing re­cent NFL ap­peal hear­ings in the bounty case, former Saints de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gregg Wil­liams tes­ti­fied he never saw any money.

“Wil­liams has al­ways told Good­ell, and con­tin­ues to state, that there was never any cash put up for a bounty on any player. It was ‘just talk.’” Vilma’s mo­tion reads. “None­the­less, Good­ell ir­re­spon­si­bly chose to con­tend that Vilma walked around with $10,000 be­fore the Car­di­nals game.”

Vilma’s sea­son-long sus­pen­sion and with shorter bans for three other play­ers were thrown out Tues­day by former Com­mis­sioner Paul Tagli­abue, who Good­ell ap­pointed to over­see the ap­peals of player pun­ish­ment.

Af­ter Tagli­abue’s de­ci­sion, the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion dropped claims in fed­eral court on be­half of Saints de­fen­sive end Will Smith and two former Saints: Cleve­land line­backer Scott Fu­jita and free agent de­fen­sive line­man An­thony Har­grove. Vilma dropped his claims against the league con­cern­ing the dis­ci­plinary process, but moved for­ward with his defama­tion case ask­ing Ber­ri­gan to al­low dis­cov­ery, which con­sists of the col­lec­tion of ev­i­dence and de­pos­ing of wit- nesses. Ber­ri­gan has so far de­layed dis­cov­ery while the Good­ell’s mo­tion to dis­miss the case is pend­ing.

In their ef­fort to high­light how un­re­li­able Cerullo was, Vilma’s at­tor­neys, Peter Gins­berg and Duke Wil­liams, cite hear­ing tes­ti­mony from Saints as­sis­tant head coach Joe Vitt, who said Pay­ton once ar­ranged for po­lice pro­tec­tion at his former sub­ur­ban fam­ily home while he was away at league meet­ings be­cause the head coach feared Cerullo was emo­tion­ally un­sta­ble and might harm his fam­ily.

While the law­suit does not quote the tes­ti­mony from the closed-door hear­ing di­rectly, it ap­pears in tran­scripts ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

“An email was sent to the League about Mike Cerullo long be­fore th­ese (bounty) charges were brought up on our foot­ball team say­ing that Mike Cerullo was crazy, that Sean Pay­ton had to have a po­lice es­cort or, ex­cuse me, po­lice pro­tec­tion at his house be­cause he was go­ing to the own­ers’ meet­ing, and he was wor­ried about his fam­ily with Cerullo,” Vitt tes­ti­fied. “This is the kind of guy we’re deal­ing with. All right?”

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