The National Football League reaffirmed Tuesday that it would suspend four players in connection with the New Orleans Saints' controversial "bounty" program, a month after the league postponed the suspensions after the players appealed.
Suspensions for two of the players – former Saint and current Cleveland Brown Scott Fujita and free agent Anthony Hargrove – have been reduced. But the suspensions for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (the rest of the season) and defensive end Will Smith (four games) are unchanged.
The league suspended the four in May, concluding that they had leadership roles in the Saints' pay-for-injury program. But the league postponed the suspensions in September after an appeal, with an appeals panel saying Commissioner Roger Goodell would review the punishment and need to clarify the reasons for the punishments.
The delay allowed Fujita and Smith to play the first few games of this season. Although the other two were eligible to play, Vilma is on the Saints' list of those physically unable to perform, and Hargrove has no team.
"In letters to each player and a memorandum to the clubs, Commissioner Goodell clarified that his decision was based entirely on his finding that the bounty program represented conduct detrimental to the league and professional football," the NFL said Tuesday. "The Saints’ bounty program operated over a three-year period and offered incentives to players for plays including 'cart-offs' and 'knock-outs,' which were plays that caused injuries to opponents."
The following are the new punishments:
Vilma: Suspended for the season, as prescribed previously. He will retain the salary he earned while on the physically-unable-to-perform list during the first six weeks of the season.
Smith: Suspended for four games, as prescribed previously.
Hargrove: Suspended for seven games, down from eight. He will be credited with five games served as a free agent, so he will be suspended only two games when he signs with another team.
Fujita: Suspended for one game, down from three.
The NFL said the decision was made after Goodell met with the players: the "first time those players had agreed to speak directly to the NFL to give their side of the story," according to the league.
The players can appeal the new decision. The players' union, the NFLPA, has opposed the punishments.
The NFL has "failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever," the NFLPA said Tuesday.
"We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players’ rights with vigilance," the NFLPA said.
The NFL previously suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season while levying an indefinite suspension on former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was accused of masterminding the bonus program.
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, 68, was sentenced to no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison at a hearing on Tuesday. It is, effectively, a life sentence.
Sandusky was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period, and faced a maximum of 400 years in prison.
Four of Sandusky's victims were in court with their families. The victims were emotional as they addressed the court and faced down the convicted pedophile.
Sandusky remained stone-faced, while his family looked down during the victims' testimony. Matt Sandusky, an adopted son of Jerry Sandusky who at the end of the trial accused the former coach of abusing him, was not in the courtroom, CNN's Laura Dolan reported. Matt Sandusky's birth mother, Debra Long, sat in the back row of the courtroom.
One of Sandusky's victims, known as Victim No. 5, addressed the court during his sentencing.
Editor's note: Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, after a judge handed down a prison sentence Tuesday for his convictions on child sexual abuse charges. Judge John Cleland said Sandusky will face no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years, with credit for time served. He was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. The 68-year-old had faced a maximum of 400 years in prison. His attorneys have 10 days to appeal the decision. They have already vowed to appeal his conviction. Follow along below as we learn more details.
[Updated at 11:57 a.m. ET] Sandusky attorney Karl Rominger said that should the defense team succeed in getting a new trial, one of the strategies will be to argue that Sandusky may have crossed boundaries by showering with children, but that nothing illegal happened.
Rominger was responding to a question from In Session, after Tuesday’s sentencing, about how Sandusky’s showering with children can be defended.
“I don’t think it was ever couched as normal behavior ... but crossing boundaries may be Sandusky’s best defense,” Rominger said.
Rominger said that in a new trial, a psychologist would testify that crossing boundaries can “create victims that don’t exist."
“Nobody is saying (showering with children) is completely appropriate, but it’s not criminal,” Rominger said.
The defense team said it will appeal for a new trial, contending, among other things, that it was granted too little time to prepare for the case (see 10:45 a.m. entry). Sandusky contends he is innocent of the charges, and his team says he could have been acquitted if his lawyers had more time to examine the case.
[Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET] Here's a little detail of how Judge John Cleland explained his sentence in court:
The law allows a sentence of hundreds of years, the judge told Sandusky, but he called such a sentence too esoteric.
The judge wanted to give Sandusky a sentence that wasn't so “abstract,” something that Sandusky could understand, CNN’s Jason Carroll reported.
The judge effectively gave the 68-year-old Sandusky a life sentence, Carroll reported.
Sandusky will be 98 when he is first able to ask for parole.
The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded jointly to Serge Haroche, a French man, and David J. Wineland, an American, "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring & manipulation of individual quantum systems," the Nobel Prize committee announced Tuesday.
The award surprised those who expected the prize this year to be related to the discovery of the Higgs boson.
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