Doc reveals particulars of 2009 sexual assault allegation towards Daniel Snyder


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 response to authorized correspondence obtained by The Washington Put up.

The girl accused Snyder of asking her for intercourse, groping her and trying to take away her garments, in response to 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 personal 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. However Snyder and the staff finally agreed to pay her a seven-figure sum as a part of a settlement wherein she agreed to not sue or publicly disclose her allegations.

Washington Commanders proprietor Daniel Snyder didn’t seem earlier than a June 22 Home listening to inspecting allegations of sexual harassment throughout the staff. (Video: AP/Reuters, Photograph: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg/AP/Reuters)

The existence of a $1.6 million settlement was first reported by The Post in 2020. Particulars 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 Put up usually doesn’t title alleged victims of sexual assault with out their consent.

The letter obtained by The Put up 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 have been “knowingly false,” made quite a few allegations in makes an attempt to undermine her credibility and stated Snyder and the staff would “search damages” from her. Shapiro and WilmerHale didn’t reply to requests for remark.

The letter makes no point out of NFL involvement within 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 response to 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 airplane’s tight configuration and quiet engine, in addition to interviews with passengers who stated 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 private and professional fame.” To undermine that declare, Donovan cited allegations in regards to the lady’s private conduct, together with that she wore revealing clothes and flirted with different males on the journey to Las Vegas.

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

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

“That is precisely the kind of stuff we’ve labored laborious for the reason that 1970s to abolish from how intercourse crimes are investigated,” stated Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant with the San Diego Police Division who oversaw intercourse crimes investigations and the founding father of Finish Violence In opposition to Ladies Worldwide.

D.C. legal professional Beth Wilkinson, who led the NFL’s investigation of Washington’s office, interviewed Snyder’s 2009 accuser in 2020, The Put up beforehand reported. However she did so amid what she later described as efforts by Snyder’s lawyers to “silence” the woman, together with by providing her extra money to not converse 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 choose to ban Wilkinson from disclosing something in regards to the 2009 investigation or settlement in her last report back to the NFL. The Put up tried to intervene within the case, to advocate for the unsealing of information, however a choose denied the request.

Donovan dropped his lawsuit, however no matter Wilkinson concluded in regards to the 2009 allegations towards 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 Home Oversight Committee to launch their own inquiry last fall. That probe surfaced the brand new allegation of sexual harassment towards 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.

Former Washington Commanders staff worker Tiffani Johnston testified on Feb. three that staff proprietor Dan Snyder harassed her at a staff dinner. (Video: The Washington Put up)

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

White didn’t reply to requests for remark.

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

In considered one of Goodell’s first important 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 legal exercise.

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

“It isn’t sufficient merely to keep away from being discovered responsible of a criminal offense,” the up to date coverage stated in April 2007. “As an worker of the NFL or a member membership, you might be held to a better normal.” 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 referred to 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.

In line with the letter, the girl alleged that Snyder requested her to take a seat with him in a personal space in the back of the airplane, 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 have been joined on the airplane by six different passengers, two pilots and two flight attendants, in response to the letter, which doesn’t determine any of the opposite individuals on board. The group had attended the earlier evening’s Academy of Nation Music Awards, a present placed on by Dick Clark Productions, which Snyder owned on the time.

Efforts by The Put up to determine the opposite passengers and the crew on board have been unsuccessful. A number of 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 response to a number of individuals acquainted with the matter, who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved to talk publicly. As an alternative, 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

A couple of days after getting 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 stated in a courtroom submitting.

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

“You’ll be able to’t have the individual main your investigation involved they could get fired if they arrive to the incorrect conclusion,” stated Herskowitz, now a advisor. “That’s an enormous downside. This complete investigation didn’t have sufficient independence and neutrality.”

Company common counsels usually oversee sexual harassment investigations of rank-and-file employees, Herskowitz stated. When the accused is the chief government, she stated, one of the best ways to make sure objectivity is to rent an out of doors knowledgeable or regulation agency. The findings ought to then go to an entity that oversees the chief government, resembling a board of administrators, she stated.

Whereas Donovan did rent an out of doors agency to help, his involvement with the investigation was nonetheless problematic, in response to 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 response to 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 have 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.

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

Not one of the different passengers on the flight supported the girl’s account, in response to the letter. Snyder didn’t direct anybody on the place to take a seat, these individuals stated, and one individual claimed the girl pushed her strategy to the again of the airplane and wasn’t invited there by Snyder.

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

Donovan additionally claimed the girl provided a shifting account of her assault. Within the lady’s first assembly with Donovan, he alleged, she claimed Snyder “f—ed” her. A couple of days later, she said Snyder “put his fingers down my pants.” On a 3rd event, she said Snyder “groped” her.

Within 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 e-mail he uncovered wherein the girl complained to her husband a few bank card steadiness of greater than $35,000, in addition to the very fact the girl had lately discovered she wouldn’t be receiving an anticipated bonus from the staff.

Donovan additionally included in his investigation, in response to the letter, allegations in regards to the lady’s private conduct within the days and months earlier than she accused Snyder, saying they undermined her declare of professionalism.

Amongst these allegations, in response to the letter: The girl wearing a “sexually provocative method” and wore a revealing halter prime one night through the journey to Las Vegas. One other individual alleged that the girl was flirtatious with one other man that weekend and engaged in “soiled dancing.” The girl denied the allegations, the letter states.

“This goes towards every little thing that’s greatest observe in intercourse assault investigations,” stated Elizabeth Donegan, a retired sergeant with the Austin Police Division who led the intercourse crimes unit. “Allegations about how a lady attire, if she flirts with different males … these things has completely nothing to do with whether or not an assault occurred.”

The specialists in intercourse assault investigations stated they might perceive a discovering that the girl’s declare was unsubstantiated, as a result of there have been no witnesses and since the letter makes no point out of the girl offering supporting proof of an assault past her account.

However in claiming Donovan had proved the girl had lied, in response to the letter, the staff made a sequence of conclusive leaps, these specialists stated.

The letter doesn’t dispute the girl was alone with Snyder in a personal space of the airplane for a time however cites claims by different passengers that they didn’t hear or see something suggesting an assault occurred.

“Simply because nobody else noticed or heard something doesn’t imply it’s undoubtedly false,” stated Archambault, the previous San Diego intercourse crimes sergeant.

And simply because the girl didn’t seem raveled or traumatized after she returned to the cabin with the opposite passengers, specialists stated, doesn’t imply she lied about being assaulted.

“There’s no set approach that victims at all times behave instantly after being assaulted,” stated Justin Boardman, a retired detective who investigated intercourse crimes for the West Valley Metropolis police in Utah.

Within the letter, Snyder demanded a declaration that no assault occurred and steered he would try to hunt monetary damages and authorized charges from his accuser. When the edges finally settled in July 2009, nevertheless, Snyder didn’t get any declaration from the girl, and the staff as a substitute agreed to pay her.

In change for $1.6 million, in response to a draft of the settlement beforehand reported by The Put up, the girl agreed to not converse publicly about her allegations. The staff, Snyder and Donovan additionally agreed to by no means converse publicly in regards to the staff’s allegations in regards to the lady. 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 following 11 years, the settlement remained a carefully held secret, recognized solely to these immediately concerned and some shut advisers to Snyder, till the staff’s office tradition got here underneath public scrutiny in 2020.

When Wilkinson started investigating that July, Goodell initially permitted Snyder and the staff to supervise her work. There have been 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 could be “full” and “unbiased.”

Hostility shortly developed between Wilkinson and attorneys for Snyder, nevertheless, over her efforts to interview the 2009 accuser. Whereas the staff publicly launched former workers from nondisclosure agreements to talk, Snyder’s attorneys argued to Wilkinson this launch didn’t apply to the 2009 accuser, The Put up beforehand reported.

The NFL finally assumed oversight of Wilkinson’s investigation, and she or he interviewed Snyder’s accuser sooner or later in late 2020. As she was getting ready to interview Snyder in November 2020, nevertheless, Donovan sued Wilkinson in federal courtroom, in search of an injunction that may prohibit her from discussing something related 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 stored any conclusions Wilkinson made in regards to the 2009 allegations towards Snyder confidential, nevertheless 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 stated.

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

A number of former staff workers testified earlier than Congress on Feb. three, describing widespread sexual harassment by proprietor Daniel Snyder and different prime executives. (Video: The Washington Put up)

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 a press release, Banks expressed optimism White would look at the 2009 settlement.

“I hope and count on that Mary Jo White will embody in her investigation the details underlying the 2009 settlement,” Banks stated. “Such data could be immediately related to the allegations of my shopper, and subsequently squarely throughout the scope of Ms. White’s investigation.”

The day Johnston went public together with her allegations, Snyder publicly denounced them as “outright lies.” A couple of days later, the Commanders introduced that they had employed a regulation agency to analyze. Hours later, the NFL publicly overruled the staff by saying it could rent its personal investigator.

Throughout a information convention that day, Goodell defined the league’s reasoning for not permitting the Commanders to supervise an investigation into accusations towards the staff and its proprietor.

“I don’t see any approach,” Goodell stated, “a staff can do its personal investigation of itself.”

Liz Clarke and Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.

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