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FBI, police look into New Orleans Saints wiretapping claims

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Tue April 24, 2012
ESPN reported this week that Saints GM Mickey Loomis was able to eavesdrop on opposing coaching staffs.
ESPN reported this week that Saints GM Mickey Loomis was able to eavesdrop on opposing coaching staffs.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Interim head coach says the accusations are "ludicrous" and "irresponsible"
  • ESPN reports that Saints GM Mickey Loomis could eavesdrop on opposing coaches
  • The Saints are already in hot water over their bounty program
  • A Saints spokesman calls the report "1,000% false"

(CNN) -- The Louisiana State Police said Tuesday that they have joined the FBI in investigating allegations that New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on opposing coaches for nearly three seasons.

"By placing an investigator with the FBI team, we'll go through the allegations and see where they take us. All we have now are allegations of illegal use of wiretapping and eavesdropping," Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson said.

When asked specifically whether the allegations involve Loomis, he responded, "Yes."

ESPN reported this week that the Saints manager had a device in his Superdome suite that was wired to allow him to hear members of the opposing coaching staff from 2002 to 2004.

The stadium suffered severe damage in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ripped through the city.

Citing anonymous sources, the report said it could not determine for certain whether Loomis ever used the system.

Police look into wiretapping claims

On Monday, Saints spokesman Greg Bensel called the report "1,000% false -- completely inaccurate."

"We asked ESPN to provide us evidence to support their allegations, and they refused. The team and Mickey are seeking all legal recourse regarding these false allegations," he said.

Interim head coach Joe Vitt addressed the report Tuesday, calling it "ludicrous," "juvenile" and "irresponsible."

"It's absolutely ludicrous. It's impossible," he said about the wiretapping allegations. "That's something from 'Star Wars.' "

Jim Haslett, former Saints coach and current defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, similarly cast doubt on the ESPN report.

"At no time during my tenure as head coach with the New Orleans Saints did Mickey and I discuss monitoring opposing team coach's communication, nor did I have any knowledge of this. To my knowledge this concept was never discussed or utilized," he said in a statement.

The statue of limitations for wiretapping crimes is typically five years, according to CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin.

When asked how that fact might figure into the investigation, Edmonson said, "Let's find out that if the allegations are factual and if state law has been compromised first. Then it will be up to the U.S. attorney or district attorney to review the matter."

A spokesman for the National Football League said Monday that the league had no prior knowledge of the wiretapping accusations, which come on the heels of another Saints scandal.

This month, the NFL upheld penalties it imposed against the Saints and members of its coaching staff for the team's bounty program.

The unprecedented punishment was handed down in March after an NFL investigation found that the team had an "active bounty program" during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. During this time, players were purportedly offered payments if they managed to hurt opposing players and knock them out of a game.

The stiffest penalty handed down -- an indefinite ban -- was given to Gregg Williams, the Saints defensive coordinator who, over the offseason, moved to take that same position with the St. Louis Rams.

Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012-13 season. Loomis was suspended without pay for the season's first eight regular-season games, while Vitt was suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games.

The team was also fined $500,000 and ordered to forfeit its second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013, the NFL has said. The league may consider "modifying the forfeiture" of the 2013 draft pick, assuming other conditions are met, it has said.

The NFL has yet to impose penalties against individual players involved in the bounty program, but Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that they, too, bear some of the responsibility.

"The evidence is quite clear that the players embraced this. They enthusiastically embraced it. They put the vast majority of the money into the program, and they actually are the ones playing the game," he said during an NFL Network interview.

"I think everyone bears responsibility here. We've held the executives and the coaches to a higher standard, but the players need to recognize, they need to make sure this isn't happening either."

CNN's Rick Martin contributed to this report.

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