Another day brings another allegation of un-Saintly behavior in New Orleans.
According to sources cited by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, soon-to-be suspended Saints GM Mickey Loomis had an electronic device in his Superdome suite that enabled him to eavesdrop on opposing coaches. The device was apparently installed to allow a listener to monitor the New Orleans coaching staff but was allegedly altered to allow Loomis audio access to visiting teams during three seasons spanning 2002-2004.
The Saints were 25-23 under former head coach Jim Haslett during the period of time in question (12-12 at home) and did not make the playoffs in any of those seasons. ESPN’s story indicates the bugging equipment was rigged at some point during the 2002 campaign, Loomis’ first with the club.
If the report is true, Loomis may not have only broken NFL rules but could also be in hot water with federal law enforcement for violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which prohibits electronic eavesdropping. There is a five-year federal statute of limitations (and a six-year statute per Louisiana state law) to prosecute an ECPA violation – the audio device in question was apparently disabled around the time Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005 – yet Loomis could also be targeted by lawsuits from aggrieved parties.
“This report is 1,000% false,” Saints spokesman Greg Bensel told WWLTV in New Orleans. “Completely inaccurate. We asked ESPN to provide us evidence to support their allegations, and they refused. The team and Mickey are seeking all legal recourse regarding these false allegations.”
The NFL was apparently unaware of the accusations prior to ESPN airing its story.
ESPN could not ascertain whether Loomis actually utilized the device to overhear communications by other teams or whether he passed on advantageous information to the Saints staff.
“That would be a stupendous advantage if you had that,” said former Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi. “That’s shocking.
“I can tell you if we did it, nobody told me about it… Nobody ever helped me during a game.”
Loomis is already scheduled to be suspended the first eight games of the upcoming 2012 season for failing to disclose and shut down the team’s infamous bounty program. It remains to be seen if he could face further discipline if the new allegations have merit.
The Saints’ bounty scandal has already cost the team head coach Sean Payton for the entire season and assistant/interim coach Joe Vitt for six games. The team was fined $500,000 and two second-round picks, though the 2013 selection could be downgraded pending cooperation from the club in the ongoing investigation. No players have been suspended yet, though those could come at any time.
The Patriots were docked a first-round draft pick and $250,000 while coach Bill Belichick was hit with a $500,000 fine for videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive signals in the infamous Spygate case of 2007.