A new chapter in the Deflategate saga has been written today. It is titled "first court hearing" and its main protagonists are New York Southern District Judge Richard M. Berman, NFL attorney Daniel Nash and NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler. The genre: somewhere between thriller and comedy.
Here are some very early takeaways from the public portion of today's hearing:
1) Judge Berman once again made clear he wants a settlement.
The first part of the session was closed to public and held in the Judge's robing room. Judge Berman said it was confidential because it included talk about a potential settlement between the two parties. When the hearing became public about half an hour later, Berman once again expressed his feelings on how the case should end:
Everyone is of a view that this case can be resolved expeditiously.
The Judge also said that Tom Brady and Roger Goodell will participate in additional settlement talks after the hearing.
2) NFL attorney Daniel Nash was grilled by Berman.
Nash was up first and he began by stating that the process was fair and that Brady "was afforded every right he has"under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. After the monologue, Berman entered the discussion and started asking about the Wells Report and its findings. One of the key questions raised was the following:
Is there any direct evidence linking Mr. Brady to tampering?
clearly indicates Mr. Brady’s knowledge and encouragement of this activity.
Berman, however, remained sceptical and went on to address more points:
You have to show that conspirators intended to be in the conspiracy... Is there a meeting?
What is the evidence of a scheme or conspiracy that covers the Jan. 15 game? I’m having trouble finding it.
Berman was straight forward and one got the impression that he addressed the major weaknesses of the NFL's case.
3) Berman also grilled Kessler... but the flames were not as hot.
When it was Brady and NFLPA attorney Jefferey Kessler's turn, Berman also started with a hard-hitting question about why two employees would potentially deflate footballs without Brady's consent. Kessler answered that it is not illogical to think McNally did so without Brady knowing. While it looked like Kessler throwing McNally under the bus keep in mind that it is not his job to defend two Patriots employees. Kessler has to defend Brady and Brady only.
Berman then asked Kessler another key question:
Why did Mr. Brady not cooperate with the Wells investigation, with respect to providing texts?
Kessler argued that Wells did not communicate with Brady to establish the expectation of possible consequences for not providing data. The attorney also argued that Brady's apparent lack of cooperation was due to the fact that he is concerned about his private life. However, Kessler also said that Brady should have conducted himself differently while dealing with "independent" investigator Ted Wells.
While Berman also asked Kessler a couple of tough questions, the overall tenor was not the same as during Nash's turn, during which the basis of the NFL's ruling was questioned by the Judge.
4) Kessler delivered one of the best quotes of DeflateGate:
Maybe if my grandmother had wheels she'd be a trolleycar!
He was talking about the Wells Report reaching for conclusions in order to strengthen the NFL's position.
5) New York Daily News reporter Stephen Brown is today's MVP.
Brown live-tweeted the open part of the hearing and did a terrific job. Rightfully, his number of twitter followers jumped from around 800 to almost 28,000. In case you want to read today's timeline, click here. There is a lot more information than in this quick-hits piece.
6) Brady's team probably won this round.
Sports Illustrated's law expert Michael McCann said the following about the first hearing session and it is good news for Tom Brady and the Patriots:
If today was the 1st quarter in Tom Brady v. NFL, Brady might actually get some rest in the 4th. A good day for him.
If today's hearing serves as an indicator, Berman might lean towards the case presented by Brady and the NFLPA. Of course, as stated above, he would prefer a settlement; something he told both parties. With today's hearing, though, Brady's leverage might have improved when it comes to talking about settling. We will have to wait and see if that actually is the case but today was a very encouraging first hearing for Brady and his team.