Cowboys’ Greg Hardy suspended for ‘conduct detrimental to league’

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy has been suspended 10 games without pay for “conduct detrimental to the league.”

The NFL announced Wednesday in a statement that Hardy was notified in a letter from commissioner Roger Goodell that he is suspended for the team’s first 10 games of the regular season in violation of the league constitution and by-laws, the player contract and the personal conduct policy.

ESPN.com reported that the NFL Players Association plans to appeal the league’s ruling. Hardy has three days to appeal the decision.

Hardy was informed that a two-month NFL investigation following the dismissal of his case in North Carolina state court determined that there was “sufficient credible evidence that Hardy engaged in conduct that violated NFL policies in multiple respects and with aggravating circumstances.”

The NFL was allowed to view photographs from Hardy’s first domestic violence case to help determine the injuries to Hardy’s ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder. League investigators also had access to photos of guns in Hardy’s Charlotte, N.C., apartment and other evidence in a July 15 trial of the former Carolina Panthers defensive end.

“The net effect of these acts was that Ms. Holder was severely traumatized and sustained a range of injuries, including bruises and scratches on her neck, shoulders, upper chest, back, arms and feet,” Goodell wrote in the letter to Hardy. “The use of physical force under the circumstances present here, against a woman substantially smaller than you and in the presence of powerful, military-style assault weapons, constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy.”

The investigation was led by Lisa Friel and T&M Protection Resources. Prior to joining the NFL, Friel was vice president of the sexual misconduct consulting and investigations division of T&M. During a 28-year career as a Manhattan prosecutor, Friel was head of the sex crimes prosecution unit in the New York County district attorney’s office for more than a decade. Friel is now NFL senior vice president and special counsel for investigations.

The NFL said the investigation involved numerous interviews with witnesses and experts, a review of hundreds of pages of court records, documents and exhibits, photographs, police reports, medical records, and reports and opinions of medical experts retained by Hardy’s attorneys and by the NFL office.

In addition, Hardy and his counsel, along with representatives of the NFL Players Association, met with NFL staff and investigators on March 4, at which time Hardy’s counsel made a detailed presentation and shared additional information. Hardy and his counsel also met on March 10 with the independent investigators, at which he was afforded the opportunity to discuss and respond to questions about the events of May 13, 2014.

After having the opportunity to review evidence, the NFL said Hardy and his counsel had a further opportunity to discuss the evidence and provide a supplemental report from the player’s medical expert.

“The NFL’s investigation concluded that Hardy violated the Personal Conduct Policy by using physical force against Nicole Holder in at least four instances,” the league said in a statement. “First, he used physical force against her which caused her to land in a bathtub. Second, he used physical force against her which caused her to land on a futon that was covered with at least four semi-automatic rifles. Third, he used physical force against her by placing his hands around Ms. Holder’s neck and applying enough pressure to leave visible marks. And fourth, he used physical force to shove Ms. Holder against a wall in his apartment’s entry hallway.”

Despite numerous efforts to interview Holder, the NFL said it was unable to do so.

The NFL’s investigation also concluded that Hardy failed to provide complete and accurate information to NFL investigators and members of the league staff.

Hardy was initially arrested as a result of the incident and charged with assault on a female and communicating threats following an altercation with Holder at his residence in Charlotte. On July 15, Hardy was found guilty of these charges by a state court judge following a bench trial at which both Hardy and the victim testified under oath.

Hardy appealed the ruling by the judge and a jury trial set for Feb. 9 did not occur because Holder did not appear to testify after reportedly receiving a financial settlement from Hardy. The case was dismissed.

On Monday, Hardy’s attorney filed a petition to have domestic violence charges expunged in North Carolina. That process can take up to four months.

The Cowboys signed Hardy in free agency on March 18 to an $11.3 million deal but the contract has no signing bonus and includes no guaranteed money. He loses the value of a 10-game proration of his $745,000 base salary under terms of the ban. He will earn $1,156,874 per game when he is on the active roster and can attain additional bonuses tied to playing time and performance.

If the 10-game ban is upheld, Hardy’s first game back, the Cowboys’ 11th, would be Nov. 26 on Thanksgiving against his old team, the Panthers.

Hardy played only one game last season but received $13.1 million from Carolina. He was placed on the inactive roster in Week 2 and then put on the commissioner’s exempt list before Week 3.

Hardy had 15 sacks with the Panthers in 2013 during his Pro Bowl season.

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