The memorabilia fraud lawsuit against Eli Manning and the Giants began to pick up steam in court filings this week.
Collectors suing Manning and the Giants produced transcripts of their depositions along with the testimony of their expert witness and maintained their argument that Manning, the Giants, their equipment director and Steiner Sports participated in memorabilia fraud.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the Giants continued to insist the plaintiffs have yet to prove they have done anything wrong.
The plaintiffs’ expert witness, John Robinson of Resolution-Photo Matching, said that four out of five helmets did not match what was sold as game-used Eli Manning memorabilia and that Manning likely never wore the equipment in a game.
Eric Inselberg, one of the plaintiffs, says he has collected thousands of pieces of memorabilia from Giants equipment managers but he and his attorneys pointed to equipment manager Joe Skiba’s deposition as evidence of providing fake memorabilia and negligence.
Skiba, who is not represented by the Giants attorneys, says he provided a game-issued Eli Manning Super Bowl helmet upon request from Giants media relations director Pat Hanlon “for an exhibit.”
The helmet wound up in the Hall of Fame, but in recent months a featured description of the helmet was deleted off the Hall of Fame’s website.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys also pointed to Giants owner John Mara’s deposition to argue their case.
Mara stated that he was unaware of any memorabilia controversy until the lawsuit was filed, but his in-house counsel Bill Heller received a letter on the subject in 2011.
Attorneys representing Mara, the Giants and Heller rebutted in a filing on Tuesday that these details are irrelevant because there is “no evidence supporting the proposition that engaging in memorabilia fraud is the kind of task that any Giants employee was ever employed or otherwise authorized to perform.”
They argued the helmet that went to the Hall of Fame was never sold and that any memorabilia sold would not result in profit because proceeds go to the team’s charity.
The Giants’ expert witness also said that photo-matching to assess a helmet’s authenticity is faulty.
Inselberg first raised issue with the authenticity of game-used helmets he purchased in an email exchange with Skiba in 2008 in which he asked the equipment manager, “Are these the bs ones eli asked you to make up because he didn’t want to give up the real stuff?”
Skiba responded, “BS ones, you are correct.”
Giants’ attorneys have said this does not prove fraud. Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports said in his deposition he “emphatically” trusts Manning would give him the appropriate memorabilia while much of Manning’s testimony was redacted to the public.
Inselberg asked the Giants to send him a note that his was a real one, which he never received.
The collectors are hoping they have enough evidence to proceed to trial, scheduled in less than six weeks, while the Giants hope to get a New Jersey Superior Court judge to issue a summary judgment and avoid trial.
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