NFL files suit to gain access to Greg Hardy settlement paperwork

March 19th, 2015 by Staff

Hardy enters court for a hearing last year.

(WBTV.COM) CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The National Football League (NFL) is suing the North Carolina Attorney General and the Mecklenburg County District Attorney over the Greg Hardy domestic violence case.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by a Charlotte attorney on behalf of the NFL, the same day that Hardy, a former Carolina Panther, signed a new deal to play with the Dallas Cowboys.

According to the lawsuit, the NFL says it is legally allowed to examine the exhibits that were admitted into evidence against Hardy in the trial. His then-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, had accused Hardy of attacking her and threatening to kill her after a night out in Charlotte.

During a bench trial in 2014, Hardy was found guilty in the case and immediately appealed the decision and asked for a jury trial.

The second trial was slated to begin on February 9, but the state asked for the charges to be dismissed after Holder didn’t make herself available for the trial. She was not able to be located in order to serve, court officials said.

After the charges were dismissed, the NFL filed a motion to have the evidence in the first trial unsealed so that it could make a decision on Hardy’s future with the league.

But the exhibits had been returned to the district attorney’s office and Hardy’s attorney, Chris Fialko, on Feb. 11, two days after the charges were dismissed against Hardy.

That’s when the league claims an Assistant District Attorney received the state’s exhibits.

Fialko filed his own motion Feb. 16, asking the court to deny the NFL’s request. That same day, Superior Court Judge Robert Bell signed an order doing just that.

The NFL argues that evidence filed in the first trial are considered public record.

The lawsuit says Hardy is the subject of disciplinary action by the league. Attorneys say they demanded access to the evidence again on March 11.

“Mr. Murray has refused Plaintiff access to the requested exhibits and refused to mediate the dispute,” the lawsuit claims. “All legal proceedings against Mr. Hardy have concluded, therefore, the exhibits admitted in evidence and held by the District Attorney are no longer trial preparation materials.”

The lawsuit claims Murray’s refusal to grant access to the evidence in the case violates “fundamental openness and transparency in government as codified in the Public Records Act.”

“It’s not public record,” says Charlotte defense attorney George Laughrun. “The case is closed. It’s been dismissed. Think about it – the ramifications are pretty broad”

Attorney Laughrun says transparency in governmental agencies has to be balanced against the right to privacy. Laughrun describes it as a slippery slope if the NFL is allowed to view the evidence. 

A section of the state’s Public Records Statute states ‘records of criminal investigation conducted by law enforcement agencies, records of criminal intelligence information compiled by public law enforcement agencies and records of investigations conducted by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, are not public records.’ 

Laughrun says “some people have a right to privacy. I mean the NFL is just Greg Hardy’s employer. It’s not a big governmental agency. It’s nothing. It’s just an employer employee relationship. They want information about their employee.”

The league is requesting an immediate hearing by an appeals court and demanding Murray provide any evidence that the state has in its possession.

“The problem the NFL has here is they’ve got an image problem because of domestic violence. They want to say we’re taking a big aggressive stance,” Attorney Laughrun says. “The last ten months all you’ve seen is domestic violence. Ray Rice was easy – they had video. Here they have no evidence. What evidence have they to suspend Greg Hardy? They don’t have any – obviously Nicole is not cooperating with them. There’s no real documents. He {Hardy} says I didn’t do this. So where’s the evidence here? So they’ve got a real problem. I think they’re trying to send a message we’ll go to any lengths we can to get this information.” 

The Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office says it received a copy of the lawsuit and attorneys are reviewing it. 

A spokesperson for the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office says “The District Attorney’s Office has not been served but is aware of the complaint from the NFL. The office has requested that the N.C. Attorney General’s Office represent the DA’s Office in this matter. A similar request is made whenever the DA’s Office is named in a lawsuit. The DA’s Office will not comment further at this time.”

Hardy signed a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. Hardy’s status with the league is still in limbo.

“[Hardy] remains on the Exempt list pending the resolution of the matter being reviewed for potential discipline,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told WBTV Wednesday.

When asked for a comment about the lawsuit, McCarthy replied “the suit is the statement.”

Copyright 2015 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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