More Big Trouble In Big Easy

Stunning news released that New Orleans Saints' owner accused of eavesdropping in on opponents.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

When it Rains it pours, and no number of Mardi Gras umbrellas can shield the city from the veritable sh**storm that has washed over southeast Louisiana the past few months.  From the breaking news of bountygate, to the suspension of multiple Saints personnel; player suspensions are to be handed out in the near future as well, and now Saints owner Mickey Loomis is being accused of eavesdropping.

That's right sports fans, eavesdropping.

The U.S. Attorney's office in the eastern district of Louisiana was informed last friday that Mickey Loomis had a secret device re-wired in his Superdome suite that allowed him to listen in on opposing coaches conversations between the 2002-04 seasons. 

Reports state that Loomis originally had the device so he could listen to conversations between his coaches during games, but had it re-wired when he became team GM in 2002.

The device was deactivated when the Superdome was used as a shelter during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Jim Letten, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, has briefed the FBI in New Orleans about Loomis' alleged activity, according to sources. The allegations could be both a violation of NFL rules and potentially a federal crime. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 prohibits any person from intercepting communications from another person using an electronic or mechanical device.

There is however, a statute of limitations on such allegations.  Charges can only be filed if these acts occurred within the last five years, while the statute of limitations according to Louisiana state law is six years.  If investigations determine that Loomis did have the device disconnected in 2004, he would be free of any criminal prosecution. 

Lawsuits could still be filed by any of the teams or owners who were listened in on.  According to federal law, those organizations have up to two years from being notified of such infractions to file suits.

This infraction also goes against NFL by-laws which prohibit the use of any team using electronic devices to gain an edge during the course of a game.  Though it is debated whether or not Loomis could have used this information during a game to gain an advantage, but he still broke NFL rules and the Saints could pay severe penalties.

A precedent for a situation like this has been set.  In 2008 amid the New England Patriots "spygate" scandal, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the Patriots were fined $250,000, and the team was forced to give up its first-round pick in 2008.

Photo Credit: AP

J. Lance Moose is a contributor and lead football writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JLanceMoose, and subscribe on Facebook .