Cow­boys’ Elliott will ap­peal 6-game penalty

Los Angeles Times - - NFL - Staff and wire re­ports — Sam Farmer

NFL has sus­pended Dal­las Cow­boys run­ning back Ezekiel Elliott with­out pay for the first six games of the sea­son for vi­o­lat­ing the league’s per­sonal con­duct pol­icy, al­though Elliott will ap­peal the penalty.

Elliott, 22, the Cow­boys’ first-round pick in 2016, won the NFL rush­ing ti­tle as a rookie and led Dal­las to the top seed in the NFC. His rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­leased a state­ment Fri­day say­ing the NFL’s find­ings are “re­plete with fac­tual in­ac­cu­ra­cies and er­ro­neous con­clu­sions.

The league “‘cherry picks’ so-called ev­i­dence to sup­port its con­clu­sion while ig­nor­ing other crit­i­cal ev­i­dence,” the state­ment reads. “For ex­am­ple, both the Colum­bus [Ohio] pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice as well as the NFL in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­pressly con­cluded and con­veyed to our of­fice [and oth­ers] that the ac­cuser was ly­ing about an al­leged July 22, 2016 in­ci­dent whereby she ac­cused Mr. Elliott of pulling her out of her car and as­sault­ing her. An al­le­ga­tion that was ul­ti­mately un­der­mined by her own friend’s af­fi­davit which stated that no such as­sault oc­curred.”

The league said in a state­ment Fri­day that it con­ducted “an ex­ten­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion” over the past year, in­ter­view­ing more than a dozen wit­nesses, in­clud­ing Tif­fany Thomp­son, who al­leged sev­eral in­stances of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence by Elliott in July 2016. The league also con­sulted with med­i­cal ex­perts, as well as ex­am­ined all avail­able ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing pho­to­graphic and dig­i­tal ev­i­dence, thou­sands of text mes­sages and other records of elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The state­ment reads: “In a let­ter to Elliott ad­vis­ing him of the de­ci­sion, Todd Jones, the NFL’s spe­cial coun­sel for con­duct, said th­ese ad­vi­sors ‘were of the view that there is substantial and per­sua­sive ev­i­dence sup­port­ing a find­ing that [Elliott] en­gaged in phys­i­cal vi­o­lence against Ms. Thomp­son on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions dur­ing the week of July 16, 2106.’ ”

Peter Har­vey, former at­tor­ney gen­eral of New Jersey and a mem­ber of Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell’s ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, said in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters that Elliott’s lawyers of­fered sev­eral pos­si­ble rea­sons the woman might have sus­tained bruises.

“Mr. Elliott’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives ar­gued in a meet­ing that, maybe Ms. Thomp­son fell down stairs,” he said. “There was no wit­ness to say she fell down stairs, and there was no pho­to­graph of her fall­ing down stairs. Mr. Elliott’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives sug­gested that maybe be­cause she was a server, what is called bot­tle ser­vice, maybe she bumped into ta­bles. There was no wit­ness who saw Ms. Thomp­son bump into ta­bles while serv­ing any­thing.

“Mr. Elliott’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives sug­gested that maybe she was in a fight with an­other woman and the bruises — for ex­am­ple, the bruise on her eye and per­haps other bruises on her body — were sus­tained in that al­ter­ca­tion. The NFL in­ves­ti­ga­tors talked to peo­ple who wit­nessed that al­ter­ca­tion, and it was re­vealed that nei­ther woman landed a punch on the other. They pulled each other’s hair, but they never hit each other with a balled-up fist or any other way.”

In re­sponse to the sus­pen­sion, the NFL Play­ers Assn. is­sued a one-sen­tence state­ment: “We are re­view­ing the de­ci­sion and have been in touch with Ezekiel and his rep­re­sen­ta­tives to con­sider all op­tions.”

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