NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The NFL’s ‘Spygate’ is headed back to court.
The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit arising from the New England Patriots’ secret videotaping of New York Jets coaches in a game at Giants Stadium in 2007.
The suit was filed by a Jets season ticket holder who also is an attorney in New Jersey, and it claims the Patriots’ actions “violated the contractual expectations and rights of New York Jets ticket-holders” who paid to watch a game played in compliance with the league’s rules.
The Patriots were caught taping signals by Jets coaches, a violation of league rules, during the opening game of the 2007 season. New England won 38-14 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fined Patriots head coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 for that incident, and stripped New England of a first-round draft choice.
Carl Mayer’s lawsuit asserts that because other teams also found illicit videotaping by the defendants, Jets ticketholders should be compensated for all games played in Giants Stadium between the Jets and Patriots since Belichick became head coach in 2000.
“What we’re arguing is that professional sports is a business that has to respect the law just like any other business, and that teams that participate can’t commit fraud on ticketholders,” Mayer said Tuesday. “The Patriots had altered the rules of the game and were playing with advance knowledge of opponents’ plays.”
Mayer and co-counsel Bruce Afran also will argue that the Patriots violated federal racketeering laws as well as New Jersey’s consumer protection laws by concealing material facts — the existence of the videotaping — from paying customers.
The suit calculated that because customers paid $61.6 million to watch eight “fraudulent” games, they’re entitled to triple that amount — or $184.8 million — in compensation under racketeering and consumer fraud laws.
Mayer and Afran are appealing the dismissal of the case in March 2009 by U.S. District Judge Garrett Brown Jr. in Trenton. Shep Goldfein, an attorney representing the NFL in the matter, referred to Brown’s ruling in which the judge wrote that a ticket seller only contracts to provide entry to a ticketholder “to view whatever event transpires.”
An attorney representing the Patriots did not return a telephone message Tuesday.
“People pay hundreds of dollars for tickets and expect a fair game,” Afran said. “It’s not professional wrestling, where you know it’s rigged.”