The attorney who led the investigation into the Patriots' use of deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game staunchly defended his work as being independent and guided by the facts and not a preconceived notion of what he wanted the outcome to be.
Ted Wells, who wrote an exhaustive 243-page report at the request of the NFL, lashed out at the suggestion that he went into the case hoping to find Tom Brady guilty of purposely deflating the footballs used in the first half of the Patriots' 45-7 win over the Colts at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 18. Brady's agent, Don Yee, said on Monday in a harshly worded statement after Brady was suspended four games that the "outcome was predetermined; there was no fairness in the Wells investigation whatsoever."
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Wells took the unusual step of issuing his own statement on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, and said Yee was off base in his assertion.
"The conclusion in the report represents the independent opinion of me personally and my team and those conclusions were not influenced in any way, shape or form by anyone at the league office," said Wells, who later took questions about the case. "We made a fair and reasonable review of the evidence, and we reached a conclusion based on the preponderance of evidence standards."
In addition to Brady being suspended for the first four games of the 2015 regular season, the Patriots were docked a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round selection in 2017. The team also was fined $1 million. Yee said Monday that Brady plans to appeal his suspension.
"What drove the decision in this report is one thing: It was the evidence," Wells said. "I could not ethically ignore the import and relevancy of those text messages and the other evidence."
Wells said he believes Brady was guilty of knowing that the footballs were illegally tampered with, and that if the case were presented in court, the quarterback would have been found guilty.
"If I were sitting on a jury, I would have checked the box that said, 'Proven,' " Wells said.
The New York-based attorney, who also conducted the investigation into the bullying case involving several Dolphins players and assistant coaches in 2013, said he was troubled in particular by the unwillingness of the Patriots to make locker room attendant Jim McNally available for a second interview and by Brady's refusal to hand over any relevant text messages or telephone records that might pertain to the case.
The Patriots said that McNally wouldn't be made available because he already had been interviewed four times. But Wells said the first three of those interviews were conducted by NFL security department officials, and that Wells had further questions for McNally after his only interview with him because of new information that had come to Wells' attention.
That information included text messages from McNally's cellphone in which he referred to himself as "the Deflator" and suggested in another text message to Patriots staffer John Jastremski that he was considering going to ESPN to potentially air his knowledge about Brady's preference to use deflated footballs.
"I had not found that text message at the time of the first interview. I asked for a second interview," Wells said. "[The Patriots] said they would not even tell him about my request for an interview. On that critical point, they would not cooperate."
Wells also was troubled by Brady's refusal to hand over cellphone and/or email records.
"Mr. Brady answered every question I put to him," Wells said. "He was totally cooperative. At the time, he refused to permit us to review electronic data from his telephone or other instruments. I told Mr. Brady and his agents I was willing not to take possession of the phone. I don't want to see a private phone."
Wells said he suggested to Yee that he "give me the documents and I will take your word" that the information is correct. Yee declined, Wells said.
Yee has said in previous interviews that he took copious notes of Wells' conversation with Brady, and that much of the discussion was not included in the report. Wells invited Yee to publish the notes.
Yee was not immediately available for comment.
"I have no objection for Mr. Yee to give his notes to the media," Wells said. "There's nothing in his notes that would have made any difference. He should publish his notes."
Wells also said the NFL did not conduct a sting operation, even though it was given a heads-up by the Colts the day before the championship game about the possibility the Patriots were purposely using footballs deflated to less than the allowable pressure of 12.5 pounds per square inch (PSI).
"The Patriots were all over me from Day 1 about why the NFL did not warn them of a complaint," Wells said. "That came from the Patriots to me, and I responded to it. I did not find that it was a sting. When the Colts made the complaint, no one at the league office took the complaint seriously. They told the refs . That's not a sting operation. That's a discretionary policy issue."