Giants, Manning memorabilia fraud case settled

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New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and the team have settled a lawsuit that accused them of selling bogus “game-worn” equipment to unsuspecting collectors as part of a long-running scam.

On Monday, the attorneys for both sides issued a joint statement that read: “[Plaintiffs] Eric Inselberg, Michael Jakab and Sean Godown have resolved all claims in their pending litigation against the New York Giants, Eli Manning, John Mara, William Heller, Joseph Skiba, Edward Skiba and Steiner Sports, in accordance with a confidential settlement agreement reached today. The compromise agreement, entered into by all parties, should not be viewed as supporting any allegations, claims or defenses.”

“All parties are grateful to have the matter, which began in 2014, concluded and are now focused on football, the fans and the future,” the statement added.

Jury selection was set to have begun this week, but a death in the family of one of the attorneys had pushed that back to next Monday.

Fourteen lawyers representing all parties involved in the case gathered Monday in the Bergen County Justice Center for the first day of the civil suit that was set to be tried. The plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Brian Brook, said after the judge went over the logistics and housekeeping that he had been receiving the “silent treatment” from the other side. Brook said he had never experienced anything like it.

There was little optimism from all parties involved that a settlement would soon be reached when they left the courthouse before noon. Nine hours later, it was done.

Inselberg filed the lawsuit in 2014, claiming two helmets purchased by Inselberg and the two other plaintiffs — including one helmet purportedly used by Manning during the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl season — were bogus. Inselberg said photographic experts using a technique called “photomatching” could not find evidence that the helmets were ever used in games.

The Giants and Manning had contended photomatching is unreliable because it does not take into account that helmets are routinely reconditioned during or after a season, the evidence of which might be found on the inside of the helmet and not the outside.

The stakes were raised in the lawsuit in April 2017 when Inselberg’s attorneys filed court documents that contained emails between Manning and equipment manager Skiba, who was also a defendant in the lawsuit. In one email, Manning asks Skiba to get “2 helmets that can pass as game used.”

The email does not refer to the two helmets at issue in the lawsuit, but Inselberg alleged it indicated a pattern of fraud. In a court filing last week, Inselberg’s attorneys wrote they would introduce evidence during the trial that would “show that Manning engaged in a pattern of knowingly providing items to Steiner Sports that he misrepresented as having been game-used when he knew they were not.”

When the emails went public last year, Manning angrily denied any wrongdoing. In a court filing this month, Manning’s attorney wrote that the email was intended to ask Skiba for two game-used helmets that would “satisfy the requirement of being game-used.”

ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, Darren Rovell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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