Dalvin Cook’s free agency potentially will be complicated by developments in pending litigation.
According to Rochelle Olson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a court filing that has since been sealed contends that
Cook’s lawyers offered Gracelyn Trimble $1 million to send a letter to the NFL “relieving Mr. Cook of any wrongdoing” in connection with an incident that has prompted
allegations of domestic violence against Cook. (Cook has denied the claims, and he has sued Trimble and her lawyer for defamation.)
The $1 million offer allegedly came after Cook’s lawyers offered $800,000 in exchange for an affidavit from Trimble denying claims of abuse.
Trimble’s lawyers want to use the settlement offers against Cook during Trimble’s trial, arguing that the offers represent evidence of awareness of guilt —
and that the offer represents an attempt to persuade her to commit perjury.
Typically, settlement offers are never allowed to be introduced into evidence in a civl trial.
That rule promotes the making of settlement offers in an attempt to resolve civil claims without consuming unnecessary judicial resources.
If settlement offers could be used as evidence, no settlement offers would ever be made.
Regardless of whether the settlement offers are introduced during a trial in open court, the evidence of the settlement offers has made its way into the court of public opinion.
The request for a letter to the NFL absolving Cook of wronging suggests that Cook is concerned about a punishment under the Personal Conduct Policy.
Throughout his free agency, there has been chatter in league circles regarding hesitation arising from the possibility of a suspension.
Again, Cook has denied all wrongdoing. And Cook has taken action against those who have made accusations against him.
The settlement offer, aimed at resolving all matters and allowing everyone to move on, should not have been disclosed to the public,
and it would be surprising if the presiding judge allows it to be used against Cook at trial.
It’s too late to unring the bell, however. The story has made its way to the media, and teams that already were skittish about the issue won’t be any less skittish about it now.
That said, Cook’s lawyers will (or at least should) investigate how the document was unsealed before it was sealed, and how it ended up in the hands of the Star-Tribune.
Cook’s lawsuit against Trimble and her lawyers arises from efforts to leverage him to settle by weaponizing the allegations in the media.
Cook’s lawyers quite possibly will now contend that the settlement offer has been improperly used to smear Cook as well.