Snyder Asks Court to Punish Moag for Deleted Texts in Libel Case

Michael McCann
·4 min read

In a new court filing in Maryland, Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder maintains that sports banker John Moag has violated a subpoena concerning data on his devices. Such data, Snyder suspects, could relate to those responsible for an online story published in India linking Snyder to infamous sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein. The filing was first reported by The Athletic.

Moag, who previously served as chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, is an accomplished figure in the Baltimore sports community. A former partner at the D.C. law firm Patton Boggs, Moag played an instrumental role in the NFL’s awarding the Ravens franchise to Baltimore in the mid-1990s. Since the early 2000s, Moag has been chairman and CEO of Moag & Company, a boutique sports investment bank.

Washington Football Team’s minority owners—Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Frederick Smith—hired Moag’s company to help sell their stakes. In March, the three minority owners agreed to sell to Snyder. Yet prior to the agreement, the three were in both litigation and arbitration against Snyder over whether he had the contractual authority to block a sale.

Snyder, who has been involved in ownership-related litigations in multiple states, is also the plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit filed in The High Court of Delhi in India. There, Snyder has sued the website Media Entertainment Arts Worldwide (MEAWW) for stories in which the publication asserted a connection between Snyder and Epstein. Snyder, who categorically denies any ties to sex trafficking, seeks to not only clear his name but uncover who could have been behind the MEAWW stories. As detailed by Sportico, Snyder is separately litigating against Jessica McCloughan—the wife of former Washington general manager Scot McCloughan—in Colorado as part of an effort to identify potentially responsible parties.

Snyder’s case against Moag & Company is similarly designed: Snyder wants to determine if Moag or associates are the sources. To that end, Snyder last fall requested and received approval from U.S. District Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander to serve a subpoena on Moag. Moag was instructed to produce copies of emails and texts with any third party concerning Snyder, the team or MEAWW stories. Moag produced documents in November. Snyder then moved to compel additional responses. Snyder’s attorneys insist that Moag has willfully failed to comply.

“Mr. Moag,” the brief asserts, possessed “bad faith intentions” by “selectively and manually delet[ing] messages from his devices, while keeping others for long periods of time.” Snyder hired a forensic vendor to examine the devices. This vendor allegedly told Snyder that 90% of texts were vanquished and irretrievable. Moag’s alleged behavior, Snyder’s attorneys insist, amounts to “spoilation” which is illegally discarding evidence relevant to a case. Snyder maintains that if Moag is “destroying” or withholding “crucial documents,” he will “grievously injure” Snyder’s “abilities to prosecute his defamation claims.” The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a judge to impose monetary sanctions on the spoilator, including fines and orders to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees and costs.

Snyder’s claims against Moag are only that—claims. Moag will have an opportunity to provide his side of the story and argue he’s fully complied. According to Snyder’s brief, Moag asserts that, as a matter of routine practice, he deletes texts unless they’re needed for business records. That, if true, would imply Moag didn’t intend to conceal records. Snyder’s attorneys insist that regardless of routine, Moag was on notice to not delete.

Meanwhile, a magistrate judge involved in the case, A. David Copperthite, has warned both sides’ attorneys about the manner in which they’re litigating. Sportico has obtained a letter Judge Copperthite sent to the attorneys in December. He drew attention to “ill-tempered and often profane conversations” occurring. “This case in particular,” the judge opined, “is a breeding ground for animosity with high stakes and high-profile parties, coupled with difficult litigation in a foreign court that is out of reach to the parties to this action.” He discouraged the parties from continuing their “unsavory back and forth.”

Thursday’s court filing probably won’t help on that front.

More from Sportico.com