After star pass rusher Junior Galette was arrested in Kenner on Monday on an accusation of domestic violence, the Saints will let both the legal and NFL investigations unfold before deciding what exactly to do with the player, General Manager Mickey Loomis said at a news conference Tuesday.
Loomis said the Saints will take the matter very seriously. Even though Loomis said he had not yet spoken with Galette, the player had spoken with the team’s security director, ex-NOPD Deputy Chief Danny Lawless.
Meanwhile, Galette has hired well-known New Orleans-area defense attorney Ralph Whalen to represent him, and the lawyer released a statement via the public relations crises firm Fletcher Rowley Inc. based out of Nashville, Tennessee, saying investigations “and a full hearing of the facts” would clear the athlete.
“Junior Galette behaved appropriately given the circumstances and in no way committed domestic violence or battery,” the statement read. “Junior Galette wants his friends, his fans, his teammates, the Saints organization and the NFL to know that he understands that domestic violence is unacceptable, and he supports the league’s efforts to deal with this important issue.”
Joe Raspanti, an attorney representing Galette’s accuser civilly, countered during a brief phone call Tuesday night, “The facts and the statements from objective witnesses will prove this case.”
Loomis said there is no urgency to place Galette on any kind of exempt list that would amount to a playing suspension for the five-year veteran and Saints defensive co-captain because there are no football activities at the moment for the team, which finished with a 7-9 record and missed the postseason.
Nonetheless, under a personal conduct policy the NFL adopted in December after and amid domestic violence cases involving ex-Ravens running back Ray Rice and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Galette could face a six-game suspension in 2015. However, there’s still a ways to go in the legal process.
Galette’s first court appearance related to his arrest is tentatively scheduled Feb. 26 in Kenner Mayor’s Court.
“I don’t know that I can make too many comments about (Galette) until we get more facts and more information,” Loomis said. “Look, the incident happened yesterday.”
Kenner police officers responded to a disturbance at Galette’s home in the 4400 block of Rue De La Harbor in the Place Pontchartrain subdivision at 8:52 a.m. Monday, Lt. Brian McGregor said. Officers said they met with a 22-year-old woman who said that Galette, 26, and his cousin, 27-year-old Terrance Banks, had “jumped” her.
The woman claimed to have been in a relationship with Galette and portrayed herself as a personal assistant of sorts, police said. Police said Galette claimed she was a dancer who stayed at his house from Sunday night to Monday morning.
Police said the woman accused Galette and Banks of attacking her after they refused to give her cab money but had instructed her to leave the home. Police said the woman had visible injuries and was bleeding after she called officers to Galette’s home, which he purchased in early September. The woman bled in part because her right earring had been ripped out and she was scratched in the face, police said.
Police also said the woman armed herself with a knife at one point and that Galette recorded video of the incident with his phone.
Galette was booked with simple battery related to domestic abuse. Banks, a former college football teammate of Galette’s, was booked with simple battery. The violations Galette and Banks are accused of are misdemeanors, and they both posted bail later Monday.
Tuesday’s statement delivered Galette’s version of events in regards to the incident.
According to Galette, the woman refused to leave after she was asked; she grabbed a knife; and she threatened him as well as four other people in the home. One of them was Galette’s girlfriend, the statement said.
Galette’s statement alleged his accuser lost her earring because a dog in the house, unnerved by her yelling, leapt on her.
“This was not from any contact with Junior Galette,” the statement said.
The statement contended Monday’s row was not domestic violence because Galette and the woman do not live together and are not in a relationship, which would factor into the domestic violence law under which the Saints player was booked.
“There are four witnesses to corroborate this event, including Junior’s girlfriend,” the statement said. “The incident was videotaped by Mr. Galette himself. ... Also, there was no battery committed by Mr. Galette.”
In his fifth year with the Saints, Galette led the Saints defense in sacks with 10. He had 12 sacks in 2013 as New Orleans got to the divisional round of the playoffs, and he became the first Saints player in a decade to reach double digits in that category in consecutive seasons. Despite that, the Saints this season gave up the second-most yards in the NFL, finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
The Saints in early September gave Galette a four-year, $41.5 million deal that would extend his contract through 2019.
Some outside observers began speculating Monday that the Saints could opt to cut Galette given his price and suspension risk. But he would still account for $16.2 million against the Saints’ salary cap in 2015 in that case, and that figure would be lower by about $750,000 if he is on the roster, The Advocate was told Monday.
That said, it could be that Galette would count less than anticipated against the salary cap if a suspension comes into play. In the case of suspensions, the NFL can sometimes void guaranteed money, depending on what was negotiated into a contract, agent and journalist Joel Corry said.
Drew Brees — the Saints’ starting quarterback and the most successful player in franchise history — has language in his contract that would void guarantees upon a suspension, Corry said. It’s likely that his teammates do, too.
Loomis declined to discuss the particulars of Galette’s contract. As he was being arrested, police said Monday, Galette made a remark indicating he was concerned about the negative effect being jailed on domestic abuse allegations could have on his contract.