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Report: Saints GM Mickey Loomis Was Listening to Opponents

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

If true, the latest allegations against the general manager and the team are incredibly damning.

Report: Saints GM Mickey Loomis Was Listening to Opponents

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If everyone lost their collective minds over Bounty Gate, they need to regroup those minds so they can be lost again with the next potential scandal involving the New Orleans Saints.  ESPN's "Outside the Lines" is reporting allegations against GM Mickey Loomis that he listened to opposing coaches during Saints games.  ESPN's John Barr elaborates:

The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana was told Friday that New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had an electronic device in his Superdome suite that had been secretly re-wired to enable him to eavesdrop on visiting coaching staffs for nearly three NFL seasons, "Outside the Lines" has learned.

Sources familiar with Saints game-day operations told "Outside the Lines" that Loomis, who faces an eight-game suspension from the NFL for his role in the recent bounty scandal, had the ability to secretly listen for most of the 2002 season, his first as general manager of the Saints, and all of the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The sources spoke with "Outside the Lines" under the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from members of the Saints organization.

Jim Letten, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, acknowledged being told of the allegations Friday and has briefed the FBI in New Orleans about Loomis' alleged activity, according to sources. If proven, the allegations could be both a violation of NFL rules and potentially a federal crime, according to legal sources. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 prohibits any person from intercepting communications from another person using an electronic or mechanical device.

Sources told "Outside the Lines" the listening device was first installed in the general manager's suite in 2000, when Loomis' predecessor, Randy Mueller, served as Saints GM. At that time, according to sources, Mueller only had the ability to use the device to monitor the game-day communications of the Saints coaching staff, not the opposing coaches. Mueller, now a senior executive with the San Diego Chargers (he also was an ESPN.com NFL analyst from 2002-05), declined to comment when contacted by "Outside the Lines."

After the transition from Mueller to Loomis, the electronic device was re-wired to listen only to opposing coaches and could no longer be used to listen to any game-day communications between members of the Saints coaching staff, one source said.

"There was a switch, and the switch accessed offense and defense," said the source. "When Randy was there, it was the Saints offense or defense, and when Mickey was there it changed over so it was the visiting offense or defense," the source said.

"Outside the Lines" could not determine for certain whether Loomis ever made use of the electronic setup. [...]

The wiring setup was disabled sometime in September 2005 in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. The timing of the device's removal could prove significant for legal reasons.

While something like the bounty business is serious because the livelihood of the players is at stake, this is serious because it compromises the liberty and privacy of the opposing coaching staffs.  Eavesdropping is one thing.  I do it all the time, sometimes intentionally, sometimes without meaning to do it.  But to hardwire a device to be able to listen to the other team is taking it to a new level.

Everyone knows what the Patriots did with "Spygate" and how they videotaped the Jets coaching staff in their boxes.  Even then, though, you still had to be able to interpret what those signals coming from the coaches meant.  In this instance, we're talking about a direct line to their coaching staff's communication.  There's no interpretation necessary if you have that.

The reason the time frame is important is because the statute of limitations on something like this is five years, as is the statute against conspiracy to cover up something like this.  According to Barr, the statute rules are different for the victims of the eavesdropping, and they might still be able to file claims should these allegations hold up.  The victims have two years from the time they had "reasonable opportunity to discover the violation."  That would seem to be now, which means all of those victims would still be able to take action.  

We also have to remember that these are still allegations and they need to be investigated.  We're always quick to judge and point the finger, and in a case like this where he's already been punished for one scandal, it's easy to assume that this is true as well.  But we need to learn a lot more about all of this.

"Spygate II: Judgment Day" could be another huge blow to the Saints.  Patriots coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for the original "Spygate" and the team was fined an additional  $250,000 and docked a draft pick.  It's too early to assume what the penalties would be, but I would have imagine they would be stiffer than what was handed to the Patriots.  

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