By Michael LeeESPN Staff WriterLos Angeles — NFL players’ attorneys are seeking more than $20 million in damages from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office for allegedly failing to protect them from alleged “sex trafficking.”
The players’ lawyers filed the lawsuit Thursday against DA spokesman James Kallstrom, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey and the office of former DA candidate J.D. DeWine.
In a statement, Lacey said the allegations were made “with the assistance of multiple law enforcement officials and the assistance and knowledge of the NFL Players Association, and that the allegations are without merit.”
The statement added that Lacey will conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations, which were made in the summer of 2015 and have since been fully vetted by Lacey’s office.
Lacey, in a statement to ESPN, said the players were not the victims of a “sex slavery” ring and were not being “sexually exploited by anyone in the NFL” and that they were being targeted for “unfair and unjustified criminal conduct” by the DA’s office because they were involved in the LA County chapter of the National Organization for Women.
“As alleged in the complaint, the DA used her office’s prosecutorial discretion to pursue and prosecute a series of allegations of ‘sex slavery’ against the Los Angels, Los Laysons, and other players that were not only baseless but contrary to the law,” the statement said.
“While the DA has reviewed the case and determined it does not fall under the purview of the office, the office’s decision to pursue the case has no legal effect on the other players who were the victims, nor does it change any other legal obligations they may have under state or federal law.”
The suit seeks $20.7 million in punitive damages, $5 million in attorneys’ fees and an unspecified amount in attorney’s fees.
Los Angeles District Attorneys Office spokesman J.R. Smith told ESPN he was not aware of the lawsuit and declined to comment further.
Lydia, who resigned from her post as LA DA after the allegations against her were revealed, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Laurie S. Monsef, an attorney for the players’ attorney, told ESPN that the suit was a “massive overreach” of power and authority and said it is a violation of the law to threaten someone who is innocent of wrongdoing.
“The DA has a constitutional duty to protect and serve the public, but it’s an office with the power to enforce the law, not to threaten people who are innocent of any crime,” Monsefe said.
“It’s an unprecedented abuse of power to threaten a DA who has already been cleared by the legislature of wrongdoing and to demand that she step aside while this office prosecutes the case against her.”
Monseff said the suit seeks a “fair, just and complete” resolution of the case.
The Los Angeles DA’s Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment, nor did Lacey.