NEW ORLEANS — There is no jarring video of a man clocking his fiancee in a casino elevator, no images of “switch” marks left on a small boy’s thighs.
Still, Junior Galette’s arrest on a misdemeanor domestic violence-related charge is a serious issue for the NFL as it marks the first real test of the league’s new personal conduct policy.
Authorities responded to the New Orleans Saints defensive end’s home Monday morning after receiving a call about a disturbance, according to a news release from Kenner, Louisiana, police.
“Upon arrival, officers met with a 22-year-old female who was observed bleeding from her left ear, having an earring ripped from her ear, and scratch marks to her face,” the release said.
Lt. Brian McGregor noted that Galette disputed the woman’s account, and in a statement provided to CNN, attorney Lon Burns said, “Junior Galette is concerned about working to clear his good name which he has established on and off the football field. … Friends of Mr. Galette’s pulled together and rallied around their friend, whom they know as ‘Junior,’ who has done much when asked for people around him here in the New Orleans area.”
Burns said he would meet with Galette later this week.
The relationship between the woman, who police have not identified, and Galette is unclear. The woman told police she had lived with Galette for two years, doing chores and running errands for him, but had been asked to leave Monday morning, police said. Galette told police, though, that the woman was a dancer who was supposed to leave his home Sunday night but was allowed to stay until Monday morning.
“There are some varying versions of what occurred,” McGregor said during a Monday news conference.
‘Then I grabbed a knife … ‘
According to the woman’s side of the story, she woke Galette up to request cab fare and he told his cousin and former Temple University teammate Terrance Banks “to take care of the request,” police said.
McGregor read to reporters the woman’s account of what happened next: “We started arguing and Junior pushed me. He pushed me two times, trying to get me out the house and I fell down and they both was on me and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t fight both of them, then Terrance picked me up and put me out. I started to dial 911 and Terrance took my phone and wouldn’t give it back. Then I grabbed a knife because I thought they were going to jump me again.”
Galette, 26, was arrested on a charge of simple battery involving domestic violence, and Banks, 26, was arrested on a simple battery charge. Galette posted a preset bond of $600 and Banks posted a $300 bond, and both were released from jail Monday, according to police.
Galette is scheduled to appear in Kenner Mayor’s Court on February 26, McGregor told CNN.
The incident report will not be released until Thursday or later, McGregor said, but the responding officers had no option but to arrest Galette and Banks, given the circumstances.
Among the factors they considered, according to McGregor: Two large men were fighting with one woman, the nature of each party’s offensive and defensive injuries, the seriousness of the injuries and the heights and weights of the parties involved.
‘When you go hands-on with someone, you’ve gone too far,” the lieutenant said, explaining that the initial investigation indicated Galette and Banks were the “predominant aggressors.”
Asked about Galette’s claim that he merely wanted the woman to leave his home, McGregor said, “All you had to do was call the Kenner Police Department, and we would’ve responded.”
Policy put to work
Galette’s arrest will be the first real test for the NFL’s new personal conduct policy, adopted last month after widespread uproar over the handling of the Ray Rice assault case and Adrian Peterson child abuse case, along with other lower-profile arrests.
The policy calls on players, coaches, owners, game officials and other employees to be “people of high character,” and it expands the 2007 list of prohibited conduct, allows for independent investigations, provides criteria under which a player can be suspended with pay and establishes a group of outside advisers to review potential violations.
“Conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL,” the policy states.
Perhaps most pertinent to Galette’s case, the policy establishes a “baseline suspension without pay of six games” for any violation involving “assault, battery, domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence, or sexual assault involving physical force or committed against someone incapable of giving consent.”
The suspension can be lengthened if the case involves aggravating factors, and a second offense could see a player banished from the league outright.
Galette was apparently aware of this, as he told arresting officers the incident could affect his recent contract extension, McGregor told CNN. Under the extension, signed in September, the Saints will pay the Haitian-born defensive end with 31.5 career sacks as much as $52 million over six years, according to reports. He is slated to get a roster bonus of $12.5 million this year.
“It had no bearing on our decision (to arrest him),” McGregor said of the contract.
League, team investigating
Regarding Galette’s status on the gridiron, a Saints spokesman told CNN on Monday, “We are aware and our security department is still collecting information.”
League spokesman Greg Aiello told CNN the NFL is looking into the matter and there was nothing new to report Tuesday. He further explained how the league follows up on suspected violations, which includes making certain assistance available to the victim.
As for Galette, the NFL will offer and pay for a formal clinical evaluation, along with education and counseling, and if he participates, it will reflect positively “in determining eventual discipline if a violation is found,” according to the policy.
The league will also conduct an investigation — tapping NFL Security, independent parties or both — while cooperating with any law enforcement probes.
“League and team employees are required to cooperate in any such investigation and are obligated to be fully responsive and truthful in responding to requests from investigators for information (testimony, documents, physical evidence, or other information) that may bear on whether the Policy has been violated.
“A failure to cooperate with an investigation or to be truthful in responding to inquiries will be separate grounds for disciplinary action.”