NEW YORK (AP) — A New York Jets season-ticket holder filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick for "deceiving customers."
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., by Carl Mayer of Princeton Township, N.J., stems from the Patriots being caught illegally videotaping signals from Jets coaches in New England’s 38-14 season-opening win Sept. 9.
"They violated the integrity of the game," Mayer’s lawyer, Bruce Afran, told The Associated Press. "This is a way of punishing Belichick and the Patriots."
Mayer is seeking more than US$184 million in damages for Jets ticket holders.
Belichick was fined $500,000 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and the team was fined $250,000 for violating a league rule that prohibits clubs from using a video camera on the sidelines for any purpose — including recording signals relayed to opposing players on the field. New England also must forfeit a first-round draft pick next year if it makes the playoffs or a second- and third-rounder if it doesn’t.
"They were deceiving customers," said the 48-year-old Mayer. "You can’t deceive customers."
The lawsuit maintained that because other teams found illegal videotaping by the defendants, Jets ticket holders should be compensated for all games played in Giants Stadium between the Jets and Patriots since Belichick became head coach in 2000.
The two calculated that because customers paid $61.6 million to watch eight "fraudulent" games, they’re entitled to triple that amount — or $184.8 million — in compensation under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
"How many times have the Patriots done this? We find it hard to believe they did it just once," Mayer said. "We just want to get to the truth of the matter of what the Patriots did to the Jets. I think the ticket holders are genuinely concerned about it. This is a type of misrepresentation."
Patriots spokesman Stacey James declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Mayer and Afran, who consider themselves public interest lawyers, have been thorns in the side of New Jersey politicians for years, filing lawsuits and demanding investigations to advance their grievances. They are well known in the state but generally have had little success in their causes.
Both have lost bids for elected offices, and Mayer once served as a presidential campaign adviser to Ralph Nader.
Their demand in March for a probe of Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s gifts to a former girlfriend was rejected by a federal prosecutor. In 2006, a judge vetoed their effort to block Corzine’s appointment of Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., to fill the governor’s seat in the U.S. Senate.
They also failed to get a court to order a special election to replace Gov. James E. McGreevey when he resigned in 2004.
Now, they’re taking on the Patriots.
Their latest lawsuit asserted that the secret videotaping violated the contractual "expectations and rights" of Jets ticket holders "to observe an honest match played in compliance with all laws and regulations."
The actions of Belichick and the Patriots violated federal and state racketeering laws, as well as the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and New Jersey Deceptive Business Practices Act, according to the lawsuit.
"Having been a lifelong Jets fan, as soon as I heard this, I was completely outraged," Mayer said. "The NFL just slapped them on the wrist. I’m a consumer lawyer, and this is consumer fraud."