Daniel Snyder faced sexual assault allegation in 2009, document shows

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An worker of Washington’s NFL staff accused proprietor Daniel Snyder of sexually harassing and assaulting her in April 2009, three months earlier than the staff agreed to pay the girl $1.6 million as a part of a confidential settlement, in line with authorized correspondence obtained by The Washington Post.

The girl accused Snyder of asking her for intercourse, groping her and making an attempt to take away her garments, in line with a letter despatched by an legal professional for the staff to the girl’s lawyer in 2009. The girl alleged the assault occurred in a personal, partitioned space in the back of one of many staff’s non-public planes throughout a return flight from a piece journey to Las Vegas.

Snyder denied the girl’s allegations, the letter states, and a staff investigation accused her of fabricating her claims as a part of an extortion try. But Snyder and the staff ultimately agreed to pay her a seven-figure sum as a part of a settlement in which she agreed to not sue or publicly disclose her allegations.

The existence of a $1.6 million settlement was first reported by The Post in 2020. Details of her allegations haven’t been beforehand reported. They emerge because the NFL investigates a separate accusation of sexual harassment against Snyder and as members of Congress press the staff and the NFL for details about the league’s year-long investigation of sexual harassment on the franchise, which concluded in 2021 with no public report or investigative findings.

Snyder, via his attorneys, declined an interview request, and his attorneys declined to remark. Snyder called the woman’s claims “meritless” in a courtroom submitting in 2020, saying the staff solely settled on the request of an insurance coverage firm. His accuser and her legal professional, Brendan Sullivan, declined to remark. The Post sometimes doesn’t identify alleged victims of sexual assault with out their consent.

The letter obtained by The Post was written by Howard Shapiro, an legal professional at WilmerHale regulation agency, which had assisted in investigating the girl’s allegations. In his letter, written in response to the girl’s authorized threats, Shapiro argued forcefully that her claims had been “knowingly false,” made quite a few allegations in makes an attempt to undermine her credibility and mentioned Snyder and the staff would “seek damages” from her. Shapiro and WilmerHale didn’t reply to requests for remark.

The letter makes no point out of NFL involvement in the staff investigation. The league’s private conduct coverage in 2009 required investigations of sexual assault allegations to be overseen by the league workplace, with Commissioner Roger Goodell figuring out any self-discipline. The staff’s investigation in 2009, in line with the letter, was overseen by then-general counsel David Donovan, who reported to Snyder.

The NFL and Donovan declined to remark.

In concluding the girl fabricated the assault, the letter says, Donovan cited the aircraft’s tight configuration and quiet engine, in addition to interviews with passengers who mentioned they didn’t discover indicators of an assault or misery through the flight.

He additionally accused her of mendacity through the investigation, the letter states, by claiming she maintained an “impeccable personal and professional reputation.” To undermine that declare, Donovan cited allegations concerning the girl’s private conduct, together with that she wore revealing clothes and flirted with different males on the journey to Las Vegas.

The Post described the staff investigation, as summarized in the letter, to a few consultants in sexual assault investigations, who mentioned the staff might have been justified in concluding that the girl’s declare was unsubstantiated. But these consultants mentioned the proof cited in the letter doesn’t show the girl fabricated her claims, and so they criticized the inclusion of probably damaging allegations concerning the girl’s private life, no matter Donovan’s rationale.

Daniel Snyder pledged support for the NFL’s investigation. His actions tell a different story.

“This is exactly the type of stuff we’ve worked hard since the 1970s to abolish from how sex crimes are investigated,” mentioned Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant with the San Diego Police Department who oversaw intercourse crimes investigations and the founding father of End Violence Against Women International.

D.C. legal professional Beth Wilkinson, who led the NFL’s investigation of Washington’s office, interviewed Snyder’s 2009 accuser in 2020, The Post beforehand reported. But she did so amid what she later described as efforts by Snyder’s lawyers to “silence” the woman, together with by providing her more cash to not communicate with the NFL investigator. An legal professional for Snyder has denied these allegations.

As Wilkinson investigated in 2020, she additionally fended off a lawsuit by Donovan, who requested a federal decide to ban Wilkinson from disclosing something concerning the 2009 investigation or settlement in her last report back to the NFL. The Post tried to intervene in the case, to advocate for the unsealing of information, however a decide denied the request.

Donovan dropped his lawsuit, however no matter Wilkinson concluded concerning the 2009 allegations in opposition to Snyder stays confidential due to Goodell’s refusal to launch any public report or findings from her investigation. Wilkinson declined to remark.

Goodell’s dealing with of Wilkinson’s investigation led Democrats on the House Oversight Committee to launch their own inquiry last fall. That probe surfaced the brand new allegation of sexual harassment in opposition to Snyder, by former worker Tiffani Johnston. Appearing before the committee in February, Johnston, a former cheerleader and advertising and marketing supervisor for the staff, accused the proprietor of placing his hand on her leg underneath the desk at a staff dinner and attempting to drive her into his limousine.

Snyder has denied Johnston’s allegations. The NFL employed Mary Jo White, a former U.S. legal professional and chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to research her claims in addition to accusations of financial improprieties raised by a former vp of gross sales, which the staff additionally has denied.

White didn’t reply to requests for remark.

On Wednesday, Goodell is scheduled to look earlier than the House Oversight Committee to debate the NFL’s dealing with of its investigation of Washington’s office tradition. Snyder declined a request to look on the similar listening to, saying he had a team-related enterprise assembly in one other nation the identical day.

In one in every of Goodell’s first vital acts as NFL commissioner, he strengthened the league’s private conduct coverage in 2007 after a string of off-the-field scandals involving gamers accused of prison exercise.

The new coverage utilized to everybody related to the NFL, together with homeowners, and prohibited any “conduct detrimental to the integrity” of the league. The coverage went past barring simply prison exercise, the league introduced, and neither a conviction nor an arrest was required for the NFL to research and impose self-discipline.

“It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime,” the up to date coverage mentioned in April 2007. “As an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard.” Upon studying of an alleged violation of the coverage, the league workplace would direct an investigation, and Goodell would decide whether or not any punishment was warranted.

Two years later, the girl who labored for the NFL’s Washington franchise, now generally known as the Commanders, returned from a weekend work journey to Las Vegas with a startling accusation. On the return flight, the girl alleged, Snyder sexually assaulted her.

According to the letter, the girl alleged that Snyder requested her to take a seat with him in a personal space in the back of the aircraft, away from the opposite passengers. At one level through the flight, she alleged, Snyder requested her for intercourse, groped her and tried to tug off her clothes earlier than she stopped the assault and pushed him away.

Snyder and the girl had been joined on the aircraft by six different passengers, two pilots and two flight attendants, in line with the letter, which doesn’t determine any of the opposite folks on board. The group had attended the earlier evening’s Academy of Country Music Awards, a present placed on by Dick Clark Productions, which Snyder owned on the time.

Efforts by The Post to determine the opposite passengers and the crew on board have been unsuccessful. Multiple former longtime pilots for Snyder didn’t reply to requests for remark, and several other different former members of the staff’s senior administration, who might need had information of the girl’s allegations, declined to remark or didn’t reply to interview requests.

The girl didn’t report her allegations to regulation enforcement in 2009, in line with a number of folks acquainted with the matter, who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to talk publicly. Instead, she employed an legal professional and dealt immediately with the staff.

On Capitol Hill, ex-Washington NFL employees levy new harassment claims against Daniel Snyder

Just a few days after coming back from Las Vegas, the girl met with Donovan and reported her allegations, the letter states. Donovan then employed WilmerHale, the agency the place he labored earlier than and after his tenure with the staff, to help him as he investigated, he later mentioned in a courtroom submitting.

As he led the investigation, Donovan reported to Snyder as basic counsel of each the staff and Red Zebra Broadcasting, one other firm owned by Snyder on the time. This relationship constituted a battle of curiosity, in line with Elaine Herskowitz, former employees legal professional with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“You can’t have the person leading your investigation concerned they might get fired if they come to the wrong conclusion,” mentioned Herskowitz, now a guide. “That’s a huge problem. This whole investigation didn’t have enough independence and neutrality.”

Corporate basic counsels sometimes oversee sexual harassment investigations of rank-and-file employees, Herskowitz mentioned. When the accused is the chief government, she mentioned, the easiest way to make sure objectivity is to rent an outdoor professional or regulation agency. The findings ought to then go to an entity that oversees the chief government, corresponding to a board of administrators, she mentioned.

While Donovan did rent an outdoor agency to help, his involvement with the investigation was nonetheless problematic, in line with Herskowitz, as was the involvement of one other staff government who reported to Snyder: then-chief working officer Mitch Gershman. When Donovan concluded his investigation, in line with the letter, he reported his discovering that the girl had lied for the aim of extorting the staff to Gershman, who fired the girl for making “fictitious statements” about Snyder. Gershman didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Three former minority shareholders who had been members of the staff’s board of administrators in 2009 — FedEx founder Frederick W. Smith, actual property developer Dwight Schar and investor Robert Rothman — declined to remark or didn’t reply to requests for remark.

In the letter, Shapiro, the legal professional for the staff, claimed Donovan’s investigation uncovered “uncontroverted evidence disproving” the girl’s allegations in opposition to Snyder. The letter then particulars a few of that proof.

None of the opposite passengers on the flight supported the girl’s account, in line with the letter. Snyder didn’t direct anybody on the place to take a seat, these folks mentioned, and one individual claimed the girl pushed her method to the again of the aircraft and wasn’t invited there by Snyder.

Others mentioned that the door to the again space was open for many of the flight, with different passengers and flight attendants making frequent, unannounced visits, and that they didn’t hear any noises in step with an assault. And after Snyder’s accuser returned from sitting with Snyder, these folks mentioned, she acted amiably, making dialog whereas giving no indication she had simply been assaulted.

Donovan additionally claimed the girl supplied a shifting account of her assault. In the girl’s first assembly with Donovan, he alleged, she claimed Snyder “f—ed” her. Just a few days later, she said Snyder “put his hands down my pants.” On a 3rd event, she said Snyder “groped” her.

In the letter, the staff asserted that the girl was mendacity as a part of an extortion try. The girl talked about private monetary misery in her first assembly with Donovan, he alleged, and requested for a settlement. Donovan additionally cited an electronic mail he uncovered in which the girl complained to her husband a few bank card stability of greater than $35,000, in addition to the very fact the girl had not too long ago realized she wouldn’t be receiving an anticipated bonus from the staff.

Donovan additionally included in his investigation, in line with the letter, allegations concerning the girl’s private conduct in the times and months earlier than she accused Snyder, saying they undermined her declare of professionalism.

Among these allegations, in line with the letter: The girl dressed in a “sexually provocative manner” and wore a revealing halter high one night through the journey to Las Vegas. Another individual alleged that the girl was flirtatious with one other man that weekend and engaged in “dirty dancing.” The girl denied the allegations, the letter states.

“This goes against everything that is best practice in sex assault investigations,” mentioned Elizabeth Donegan, a retired sergeant with the Austin Police Department who led the intercourse crimes unit. “Allegations about how a woman dresses, if she flirts with other men … this stuff has absolutely nothing to do with whether an assault occurred.”

The experts in sex assault investigations said they could understand a finding that the woman’s claim was unsubstantiated, because there were no witnesses and because the letter makes no mention of the woman providing supporting evidence of an assault beyond her account.

But in claiming Donovan had proved the woman had lied, according to the letter, the team made a series of conclusive leaps, these experts said.

The letter does not dispute the woman was alone with Snyder in a private area of the plane for a time but cites claims by other passengers that they didn’t hear or see anything suggesting an assault occurred.

“Just because no one else saw or heard anything doesn’t mean it’s definitely false,” mentioned Archambault, the previous San Diego intercourse crimes sergeant.

And just because the woman didn’t appear disheveled or traumatized after she returned to the cabin with the other passengers, experts said, doesn’t mean she lied about being assaulted.

“There’s no set way that victims always behave immediately after being assaulted,” said Justin Boardman, a retired detective who investigated sex crimes for the West Valley City police in Utah.

In the letter, Snyder demanded a declaration that no assault occurred and suggested he would attempt to seek financial damages and legal fees from his accuser. When the sides eventually settled in July 2009, however, Snyder did not get any declaration from the woman, and the team instead agreed to pay her.

In alternate for $1.6 million, in line with a draft of the settlement beforehand reported by The Post, the girl agreed to not communicate publicly about her allegations. The staff, Snyder and Donovan additionally agreed to by no means communicate publicly concerning the staff’s allegations concerning the girl. The staff agreed to alter her personnel file to state that she was not fired however resigned and to supply a letter of advice that described the girl as “well-respected by her colleagues.”

For the next 11 years, the settlement remained a closely held secret, known only to those directly involved and a few close advisers to Snyder, until the team’s workplace culture came under public scrutiny in 2020.

When Wilkinson began investigating that July, Goodell initially permitted Snyder and the team to oversee her work. There were no direct allegations about Snyder’s conduct in The Post report that prompted the team to hire Wilkinson, and Snyder publicly pledged Wilkinson’s investigation would be “full” and “unbiased.”

Hostility rapidly developed between Wilkinson and legal professionals for Snyder, nevertheless, over her efforts to interview the 2009 accuser. While the staff publicly launched former workers from nondisclosure agreements to talk, Snyder’s legal professionals argued to Wilkinson this launch didn’t apply to the 2009 accuser, The Post beforehand reported.

The NFL ultimately assumed oversight of Wilkinson’s investigation, and he or she interviewed Snyder’s accuser sooner or later in late 2020. As she was making ready to interview Snyder in November 2020, nevertheless, Donovan sued Wilkinson in federal courtroom, looking for an injunction that may prohibit her from discussing something linked to the 2009 settlement with the NFL. He dropped the swimsuit inside weeks.

When the NFL introduced the conclusions of Wilkinson’s investigation, in July 2021, the league fined the team $10 million for having an abusive office tradition however launched no public report. That saved any conclusions Wilkinson made concerning the 2009 allegations in opposition to Snyder confidential, however it additionally, in impact, triggered one other investigation of the staff’s entrance workplace. This investigation, overseen by White, will produce public findings, the NFL has mentioned.

White is investigating a number of allegations produced through the House Oversight Committee’s inquiry, together with the harassment allegation levied in opposition to Snyder by Johnston, the previous cheerleading supervisor and advertising and marketing director.

Johnston is represented by Lisa Banks, an legal professional who additionally represents greater than 40 different former workers who participated in Wilkinson’s investigation. In an announcement, Banks expressed optimism White would study the 2009 settlement.

“I hope and expect that Mary Jo White will include in her investigation the facts underlying the 2009 settlement,” Banks mentioned. “Such information would be directly relevant to the allegations of my client, and therefore squarely within the scope of Ms. White’s investigation.”

The day Johnston went public with her allegations, Snyder publicly denounced them as “outright lies.” Just a few days later, the Commanders introduced they’d employed a regulation agency to research. Hours later, the NFL publicly overruled the staff by asserting it will rent its personal investigator.

During a news conference that day, Goodell explained the league’s reasoning for not allowing the Commanders to oversee an investigation into accusations against the team and its owner.

“I do not see any way,” Goodell said, “a team can do its own investigation of itself.”

Liz Clarke and Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.



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