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Monday, March 10, 2008
Rams player, fans to withdraw lawsuit regarding Pats taping

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Lawyers for a former St. Louis Rams player and three fans plan to withdraw a lawsuit that accuses the New England Patriots of cheating in the 2002 Super Bowl.

In court papers filed Monday, the plaintiffs' attorneys say they sued last month in an attempt to secure sworn testimony from former Patriots employee Matt Walsh, who allegedly taped a walkthrough practice by the Rams before New England's Super Bowl win.

But the lawyers for former Rams player Willie Gary call it an "exercise in futility" because they suspect Walsh would exercise his constitutional right against self-incrimination if he is ordered to submit to a deposition.

On Monday, they asked a federal judge in New Orleans to dismiss the case. The case was filed in New Orleans because the Louisiana Superdome hosted the 2002 Super Bowl, which the Patriots won 20-17.

Eric Deters, one of Gary's attorneys, said they are reserving their right to refile the suit if they learn more about Walsh's alleged role in the Spygate episode.

"We're not giving up on the case," Deters said Monday. "We just want to back off and see what he has to say before we make a move."

On Sunday, the NFL announced that lawyers for Walsh and the league are nearing an agreement that would allow Walsh to be interviewed and turn over information to the NFL.

A lawyer for Walsh told The Associated Press on Sunday that he was hopeful an agreement could be reached that would give his client the "necessary legal protections so [he] can come forward with the truth."

Last season, the NFL fined Patriots coach Bill Belichick $500,000, the team $250,000, and docked the Patriots a first-round draft pick after determining the Patriots illegally taped the New York Jets' defensive signals in Week 1. Belichick is a named defendant in the lawsuit.

Deters expects U.S. District Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle to sign off on the dismissal.

"This is a pretty standard thing," Deters said. "It happens a lot in litigation."

The lawsuit accused the Patriots of fraud, unfair trade practices and engaging in a "pattern of racketeering." The plaintiffs wanted the case certified as a class action on behalf of anyone who purchased a Super Bowl ticket or attended the game; all Rams employees on the 2002 team; and any owner of a Rams seat license for the 2001-2002 season.

Gary was signed by the Rams as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2001 and released by the team in September 2002. He has played for the Arena League's Georgia Force since 2003.

Two fans who attended the 2002 Super Bowl and a Rams seat license owner also were plaintiffs in the suit.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the suit had no "factual or legal basis."

"Dismissal at this stage -- before the complaint was even served -- probably helps the plaintiffs' lawyers avoid being sanctioned. It was a publicity-driven, frivolous claim and I don't think anyone took it too seriously," James said in a statement.