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Meet Ted Wells, Lawyer-Turned-NFL 'Deflategate' Investigator

Who is Ted Wells Jr., and why are blogging about him?

By now, you've either never heard of "Deflategate" or you're sick of hearing about it. Here's the short, short version: In the AFC championship game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots on January 18, it was discovered that 11 of 12 footballs used by the Patriots were underinflated. This could allow a quarterback to get a better grip on the ball. The Patriots won 45 to 7.

The controversy was sufficient to make headlines and earn its own "-gate" suffix. Of late, when major sports teams need to "investigate" things, what do they do? Hire a lawyer!

A White-Cleat Firm

Meet Ted Wells Jr., partner and co-chair of the litigation department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP. Paul, Weiss is classified as a fairly prestigious firm, listed by Above the Law in its Global, National, DC Powerhouse, and NY Elite divisions. It has eight offices and employs 740 lawyers.

Wells, along with NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash, is in charge of the Deflategate investigation, which they said would take "several more weeks." Wells is familiar with scandals, having represented "Scooter" Libby in his obstruction of justice and CIA leak trial, as well as former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer for his prostitution case. Wells is a Double Harvard -- which I guess means that degree really can get you anywhere.

The Defense Charges $800 an Hour

Last year, the NFL employed another lawyer -- former FBI director Robert Mueller, no less -- to determine what the NFL knew, and when they knew it, when it came to the Ray Rice investigation. Rice was caught on video apparently punching his fiancee in an elevator in Atlantic City. Rice initially was not punished, but then the NFL suspended him for two games. He was fired once TMZ leaked a video recording of the altercation.

This meta-scandal, which Mueller investigated, alleged that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other NFL higher-ups saw the video before TMZ leaked it, meaning they knew the severity of what Rice did, but gave him a slap on the wrist instead.

Mueller's final report, released earlier this month, concluded that Goodell probably hadn't seen the actual video, but nevertheless, NFL higher-ups had "substantial information about the incident that should have put the League on notice of a need to undertake a more thorough investigation."

I've Seen Better Scandals

Deflategate has its proponents, as well as its detractors. It's plausible the Patriots would try something sneaky; coach Bill Belichick is known for playing a little dirty. (In 2007, the Patriots were caught filming opposing teams' practices in order to decode their signals.)

On the other hand, can you say that, but for the underinflated balls, there's a reasonable probability of a different outcome? Colts tight end Dwayne Allen tweeted, "They could have played with soap for balls and beat us. Simply the better team." The New York Times (which reviews football?) said that the Patriots won because -- and this will really impress lawyers -- they knew the rules better, especially an esoteric one about who on the offense is an eligible receiver.

So cheer up, associates! Work hard and one day you, too, can be investigating a major sports league for wrongdoing!

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