December 05, 2013
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Here’s another adjective Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can call his ill-timed two-step onto the field last Thursday night against Baltimore.
The NFL fined Tomlin $100,000 on Wednesday for interfering with Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones on a kickoff return in the third quarter of a 22-20 loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night.
The fine is the second-highest ever levied by the league on a head coach, behind only the $500,000 the NFL docked New England's Bill Belichick in 2007 for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals.
There is also the chance the Steelers have a draft pick taken away “because the conduct affected a play on the field.” Though he was not penalized, the league said the Steelers should have been flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
All that from what Tomlin called an “embarrassing, inexcusable” case of being “mesmerized” while standing in a restricted area that separates the sideline from the playing field and staring at the video board during Jones’ 73-yard return.
Jones had to swerve to avoid running into the coach and was tackled during a return that might have gone for a touchdown if not for the obstruction. Tomlin briefly stepped onto the field before he jumped back.
Tomlin insists the “blunder” was not intentional but has no plans to appeal the ruling.
“I apologize for causing negative attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization,” Tomlin said in a statement Wednesday. “I accept the penalty that I received. I will no longer address this issue as I am preparing for an important game this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.”
Jones didn’t blame Tomlin for his own inability to score on the return but allows it put the coach and the league in a difficult position.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s tough,” Jones said. “I can’t say he did it on purpose because I don’t know what he was thinking. It definitely sends a message across the league. He stepped across the line, which definitely threw it off.”
Tomlin said he was following his normal routine on the play and said standing on the 6-foot wide strip is common practice.
New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn’t disagree. Coughlin drew a 15-yard flag during the preseason for stepping onto the field during a field goal attempt.
“You find yourself sometimes running down the sideline on the white, but nevertheless, you’re not even supposed to be even on the white because the officials have to have access there,” Coughlin said. “That is a most difficult thing to absorb.”
Tomlin's players leapt to his defense in the immediate aftermath, and safety Ryan Clark allowed he is “always on the field.” The 12-year veteran, however, is hardly surprised the NFL is considering taking an extra step of stripping the Steelers of a draft pick.
“It’s not supposed to be fair,” Clark said. “It’s Roger Goodell, so when has he been fair?”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t believe Tomlin’s near-trip will serve as a distraction for Pittsburgh (5-7), which remains in the playoff hunt as December begins despite an 0-4 start.
“If anything, guys joke about it more,” Roethlisberger said. “They’re the ones pulling up the pictures online and joking with coach about something. If anything maybe it’s a light-hearted fun thing.”
The league will not determine whether to take a pick away from Pittsburgh until after the draft order has been set. It would be an unprecedented move for a coach getting involved during a live play.
The NFL fined the New York Jets $100,000 in 2010 when cameras caught strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripping a Miami player on the sideline. Alosi was suspended by the Jets and eventually resigned after the season.
Tomlin is hardly in danger of losing his job, and said Tuesday he had not spoken to team owners Dan and Art Rooney II about the situation.
“I would imagine if the Rooneys thought that I was capable of that or they thought my intentions were that, I wouldn’t be sitting at this table talking to you guys,” he said.
Tomlin makes $5.25 million a season and the fine constitutes less than 2 percent of his annual salary. He can absorb the relatively small financial hit. He’s far more concerned about the uncomfortable position he put the league and the Steelers in after failing to get out of the way with any sense of urgency.
“I will take this as an opportunity to strenuously defend the game of football and the NFL. I won’t defend myself,” Tomlin said. “The people that know me, I don’t need to do that. The people that don’t know me, they are going to make their judgments any way.”
Tomlin’s predecessor, Bill Cowher, raised eyebrows but not the ire of the commissioner’s office in 1997 when he feigned tackling Jacksonville’s Chris Hudson as Hudson ran back a Pittsburgh field goal attempt for a touchdown on the final play of a 30-21 Jaguars victory.
While Tomlin has no plans to change the way he goes about his business, he plans to do a better job of policing himself. The 41-year-old understands this will stick with him once the furor dies down. His goal is to make sure it doesn’t stain the team as well.
“The only thing we can control is our preparation and ultimately our play this week,” he said. “That’s the now and what’s immediately ahead of us. I try to relay that sentiment and attitude to our team, and I think it’s something they embrace.”
November 28, 2013
By KEN RITTER
LAS VEGAS (AP) — O.J. Simpson faces at least four more years in prison after a judge rejected his bid for a new trial in his Las Vegas armed robbery and kidnapping conviction.
“All grounds in the petition lack merit and, consequently, are denied,” Clark County District Judge Linda Marie Bell said in her ruling Tuesday.
Simpson’s lawyer Patricia Palm said she spoke briefly with the former football star from prison, and said he was disappointed but would appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. Simpson’s new defense team argued that his original lawyers botched his case.
“We’re confident that when we get to the right court we’ll get relief because he deserves relief, because he didn’t get a fair trial,” Palm told The Associated Press.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, whose wife was the judge who presided over the Simpson 2008 trial, called Bell’s ruling the right decision.
“I believe Mr. Simpson received a fair trial and had more than competent counsel,” Wolfson said.
If the 66-year-old Simpson loses his appeal to the state high court, he could take the case to federal courts to argue his constitutional right to effective counsel was violated.
Simpson was found guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery and other charges in what he said was an attempt to retrieve memorabilia and personal items from two sports collectibles dealers in a casino hotel room.
Simpson was sentenced to nine to 33 years in Nevada state prison but was granted parole on some convictions in July, meaning he must serve at least four more years locked up.
Simpson’s conviction came 13 years to the day after the former movie and TV star was acquitted in the Los Angeles “trial of the century” in the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Six years later, a jury in Miami acquitted him of all charges in a Florida road rage case.
Simpson’s legal defense in his Las Vegas trial was headed by Yale Galanter, the Miami-based attorney who represented him in the 2001 road rage case. Attorney Gabriel Grasso served with Galanter as co-counsel in Las Vegas.
Galanter, who testified during Simpson’s five-day habeas corpus hearing in May, said he felt vindicated.
“As O.J.’s lawyer and confidante, it was gut-wrenching for me to have to be in a position to defend my strategy and efforts on his behalf as his lawyer and testify against my client,” Galanter said by telephone. “If I did what their legal team says I did, the first thing O.J. should have said to me was, ‘Hey I’m in jail and it’s because of you. Go screw yourself.’”
Bell's 101-page ruling rejected arguments that Simpson received inadequate legal representation.
“Mr. Simpson’s convictions stem from serious offenses,” she wrote. The judge noted the involvement of six co-conspirators and weeks of advance planning.
“Mr. Simpson specifically asked two of his co-conspirators to bring weapons ... to show the sellers he meant business,” she said. And the two memorabilia dealers were “lured into a small hotel room” where they were surprised by Simpson’s group.
The judge considered a 94-page petition for a new trial.
Simpson’s new legal team — Palm, Ozzie Fumo and Tom Pitaro — said they believed they presented overwhelming evidence that Galanter knew of Simpson’s plan, had conflicted interests that shaped the way he handled the case, and that Simpson didn’t get a fair trial.
They said Galanter failed to hire an investigator or have experts examine crucial evidence, including audio tapes that jurors later said convinced them of Simpson’s guilt.
Simpson’s lawyers sought to show that Galanter advised Simpson it was OK to take back his items and should have stepped aside so he could be called as a witness for Simpson’s defense.
Instead, they said, Galanter advised Simpson not to testify and reached a pretrial agreement with prosecutors not to enter evidence into the trial record of phone calls that raised questions about whether he had knowledge of the heist.
Finally, Simpson’s legal team said that by handling the appeal, Galanter nearly precluded Simpson from ever arguing he had ineffective counsel.
A shackled Simpson spent an entire day in May testifying for the first time in the case. Simpson, noticeably grayer and heavier after five years in prison, said he believes Galanter misled him, including telling him it was OK to retrieve the family photos and memorabilia he thought had been stolen from him after his acquittal in Los Angeles in 1995.
Simpson said Galanter advised him that it was his legal right to retrieve personal items as long as no force was used and no one trespassed.
“It was my stuff,” Simpson said. “I followed what I thought was the law. My lawyer told me I couldn’t break into a guy’s room. I didn’t break into anybody’s room. I didn’t try to muscle the guys.”
During his parole hearing in July, Simpson said he was sorry for his actions and said he had made amends with the two memorabilia dealers.
“I just wish I never went to that room,” Simpson said.
Galanter dramatically contradicted Simpson’s account. He testified he was surprised when Simpson told him that he and several other men were planning a “sting” the next morning.
The attorney denied giving Simpson the go-ahead to try to retrieve the items.
“I said, ‘O.J., you’ve got to call the police,’” Galanter testified.
Galanter disputed the claim that Simpson was never informed about plea bargain discussions with prosecutors that could have resulted in a prison sentence of just a few years.
Galanter also testified that Simpson later confided to him that he knew some of the five men with him the night of the robbery had guns.
Simpson maintains to this day that he never asked anyone to bring guns or saw weapons in the cramped hotel room.
“Mr. Simpson never told me he was going to go to the Palace (Station) hotel with a bunch of thugs, kidnap people and take property by force,” Galanter said. “To insinuate I, as his lawyer, would have blessed it is insane.”
November 28, 2013
RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond has been suspended by the NFL for the team's next four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Thurmond will be eligible to return to the active roster on Monday, Dec. 23 before the final game of the regular season.
A member of one of the NFL’s best secondaries, Thurmond has one interception and one sack thus far. His pick came in the team’s last game, against Minnesota, and he returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.
November 28, 2013
The Timberwolves’ five starters have logged more minutes than any other starting group in the NBA this year, in part because former No. 2 overall draft pick Derrick Williams couldn’t gain the trust of coach Rick Adelman.
Williams is gone. New Wolves President Flip Saunders traded the former No. 2 overall pick to the Sacramento Kings for Luc Mbah a Moute in a deal that was completed on Tuesday morning.
“Luc is known as one of the premier defensive players in the league with an ability to guard multiple positions,” Saunders said in a statement issued by the team. “He adds a lot of energy, grit and a high basketball IQ to our team. We thank Derrick for his contributions to our organization and wish him well in Sacramento.”
Williams was the highest draft pick in franchise history when the Wolves grabbed him in 2011. But his style of play didn’t mesh with Adelman’s system, and the impasse reached a breaking point early this season. Williams missed one game because of back spasms and did not play in four other games as Adelman elected to go with Robbie Hummel and Dante Cunningham with the second unit instead.
Adelman wanted to see more energy from Williams on both ends of court. But Williams often said that he had difficulty getting into the flow of the game with such sporadic minutes. He bounced between small forward and power forward in two-plus years with the Wolves, averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
The Kings are hoping Williams can bring some offensive punch to a team that could use some more of it in the frontcourt alongside DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings have been searching for an answer at power forward after Carl Landry went out with a torn hip flexor in the preseason. They've used Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson to varying degrees of success and see Williams as a player who may just need a change of scenery to realize his potential.
Williams is more comfortable playing the power forward, which he showed when filling in for the injured Kevin Love last season. But with Love back healthy this year, and Cunningham earning Adelman’s trust as a veteran off the bench, there was little room for the 22-year-old. Williams played less than 15 minutes per game this season, much of it in garbage time during blowouts.
The move will help the Wolves balance their roster a little bit, relieving a glut at power forward while addressing a weakness at small forward. The 6-foot-8 Mbah a Moute played with Love in college at UCLA and brings some toughness and defensive presence that the Wolves are sorely lacking.
With Chase Budinger still not close to playing while he recovers from knee surgery, the Wolves needed another body to help take some of the pressure off of Corey Brewer as the team’s primary perimeter defender.
Adelman has told others in the organization that he likes Mbah a Moute’s game, an important endorsement if the Wolves were going to cut ties with Williams.
Mbah a Moute’s size will help the Wolves better matchup with some of the toughest covers in the West, including Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki from Dallas.
November 28, 2013
By Ken Brooks
LAWT Contributing Writer
Narbonne’s football team is tasked with going 2-0 this season versus No. 4 seed Carson which gets a chance at redemption against the Gauchos on its second visit this season. Although the score in Carson’s Marine League game loss was not close, the playoffs is a different season.
Top seeded Narbonne struggled unimpressively in its second round game against Birmingham. They did not look like a team that is destined to repeat as City champions. In fact both it and Carson, unlike the first round, were pushed to the limit and had to earn their respective second round home victories.
Despite having the home field advantage, can Narbonne afford to give away anything near the 140 penalty yards that it surrendered versus Birmingham? Perhaps so if Carson again cannot score better than the mere eight points it posted in the last meeting. It’s going down at the same place, same time. But the Colts better have a different game plan the second time around.