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Did the Patriots Cheat Last Sunday?

ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting that NFL officials have concluded that the New england Patriots cheated in their season-opening victory over the New York Jets. According to the report, the Patriots used a video camera to tape the Jets' defensive play-calling signals. Using video cameras to record the plays themselves is okay under NFL rules, but taping the oppositions play callng is a big no-no. If this report is accurate, the Patriots could face a heavy sanction from the league, such as losing one or more picks in next year's draft.

Prosecutorial Indiscretion:
Here's EPSN's John Clayton on the matter:

"Although this is embarrassing, you can't take away what this franchise can do. They may have the best team in football. Robert Kraft is one of the league's best owners. The team has three Super Bowl rings and a great chance to get a fourth. Other great organizations have paid penalties for violating league rules. The Broncos lost a draft choice for violating the salary cap with John Elway. The Steelers once had to forfeit a third-round draft choice for working out in shoulder pads in the offseason. The Patriots may lose a draft choice or two. And whether or not the Patriots videotaped the Jets' defensive signals, Belichick won't be any less of a coach."
9.12.2007 12:49am
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
From what I've read, it's not that you can't tape the opposition's play-calling, it's that you can't have video cameras in certain areas. So if they taped them from a seat in the stands, that would be legal.

Though it does seem like the only rule of the NFL is that the commissioner makes all the rules.
9.12.2007 12:52am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Oh, come on! One of the greatest moments in American sports history-- the comeback of the Giants from way back to catch the Dodgers and win the pennant on Bobby Thompson's home run in 1951-- was produced by sign-stealing (with a telescope from the Giants' clubhouse in the Polo Grounds).

This sort of thing is a part of sports, and instead of punishing the Pats, why not let it happen and force teams to enact countermeasures (including ways to disguise play calls). As usual, the NFL is micromanaging.

In any event, the NFL missed its chance to crack down on REAL cheating by the Pats when it allowed that terrible "tuck rule" call against Oakland to stand.
9.12.2007 1:00am
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
The tuck rule, though...I get the problem with the rule per se, but I never quite understood the reasoning that would have refs decide to enforce only the "fair" rules.
9.12.2007 1:17am
Justin (mail):
I don't understand why the penalty isn't a forfeit.
9.12.2007 1:21am
Justin (mail):
I don't understand why the penalty isn't a forfeit.
9.12.2007 1:21am
John (mail):
How is taping them calling the signals different from, er, looking at them calling the signals?
9.12.2007 1:28am
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
There hasn't been a forfeit in like 90 years, so it's not reasonable to expect the Pats to consider that consequence. From a fairness standpoint, you would have to think that the Pats would have lost if they hadn't taped the signs. I doubt that anyone would make that argument. I do wonder how much difference it actually makes. The Pats must have had some incentive to do it, but the signs are visible to many different people in the stadium (you could have someone remembering them, writing them down, whatever) and you have to expect that the Jets would take appropriate precautions. A different set of signs for the second half, or the next game, or whatever.
9.12.2007 1:29am
Skate (mail):
This is not the first time the the league has warned the Patriots about recording on the field of play. This is in league violation and many people have lost their jobs because of this! This time they will be given a sentence that fits the crime! This is not what the NFL wants to be viewed as!
9.12.2007 2:01am
Steve:
In any event, the NFL missed its chance to crack down on REAL cheating by the Pats when it allowed that terrible "tuck rule" call against Oakland to stand.

In what sense could an arguably bad call by the refs be considered "REAL cheating" by the Patriots, or any other sort of cheating, for that matter?
9.12.2007 3:32am
Justin (mail):
If they didn't need to cheat to win, then they shouldn't have cheated. A forfeit is perfectly appropriate. The NCAA and UEFA are two obvious examples where overt cheating has led to forfeits.
9.12.2007 3:36am
Bill F. (mail):
This is not the first time the the league has warned the Patriots about recording on the field of play. This is in league violation and many people have lost their jobs because of this! This time they will be given a sentence that fits the crime! This is not what the NFL wants to be viewed as!

Thank you, Eric Mangini.
9.12.2007 5:06am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
I think the appropriate penalty would be a do-over. Make them play the game again.
9.12.2007 6:22am
Kristian (mail) (www):
Regarding the Tuck Rule: It was the CORRECT decision based on a BAD rule. Not exactly unheard of in the context of the Conspiracy. (I really, really don't like the Patriots, so I am not a homer here...)

As for the taping: It's against the rules. They were caught in Green Bay doing the same thing. The Patriots and Belichek have been VERY fast and loose with following the rules on reporting player injuries.

Also, there are questions of whether he used more radio channels than were allowed during the game. A lot of the services that are provied by the home team are specified, and must be equal. Visitors are not free to add to them, nor are Home teams free to add or remove them. This is a competetive balance issue, and has been the case for many many years (from phone lines, to heaters, to the head sets...in recent years due to tech problems for one team, the other team has had to givbe up head sets or phones for part or all the game...)

And since Goodell is trying to reclaim a sense of law and order around the league (recovering from the Cincin-Attica Bengals, Pacman Jones, Michael Vick, Ricky WIlliams, Shawn Merriman and others), it is pretty clear he will pound organizational violations as well.
9.12.2007 8:21am
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
The NFL has lots of rules. Sometimes they get broken. The penalty is never to forfeit or replay games. Maybe it should be, but that's not the custom. They will probably get draft picks taken away, which in the end might be worse.

I think that having Shawn Merriman on steroids, or Rodney Harrison on HGH, probably makes a bigger difference in terms of winning and losing than videotaping signs from the sidelines (as opposed to videotaping them from the stands [legal] or writing them down from the sidelines [legal]).
9.12.2007 8:52am
JoeSmith:
Belichick should certainly be suspended for this. If players are suspended for taking PEDs, why should a coach not be suspended when his team is caught cheating?
9.12.2007 9:39am
Anderson (mail):
why should a coach not be suspended when his team is caught cheating?

Because that would imply the game is really about sportsmanship, not money.
9.12.2007 10:07am
JosephSlater (mail):
I'm neither a Patriots fan nor a Jets hater, but I'm puzzled as to why a team as good as New England felt it needed to take this measure against a mediocre Jets squad.
9.12.2007 10:21am
Martin Grant (mail):
There are plenty of ways to cheat in football. Grabbing your opponents face mask, hitting a player after the whistle, etc. Is this one more serious?

Are people really suggesting the Patriots forfeit a game because they used a video camera instead of a pen and paper?

And did the Patriots cheat in the game against the Jets (relay the signals to the players on the field)? Or did they record the signals so they can cheat in the next game against the Jets (first they have to figure out how to decode the signals). I am skeptical this had any effect whatsoever on the game.
9.12.2007 10:41am
Martin Grant (mail):
And yes, I am a Pats fan.
9.12.2007 10:42am
bittern (mail):
I love the American version of sports. Rules, rules, rules, infractions, penalties, appeals, statistics, precedents, and the New York Yankees.
9.12.2007 10:45am
dll111:
Wonder why the Jets suspected the Pats were doing this? Perhaps Eric Mangini has some inside info?

But I really don't see how taking away draft picks is an effective punishment or deterrent, if you buy the idea that this actually helps win a game, which the NFL certainly does. Teams mortgage their future to win now all the time. How is this different?
9.12.2007 10:52am
Houston Lawyer:
Bittern

The European version of sports is not much better. Most of the excitement in a soccer game comes from players pretending to be fouled.

I've notices in baseball that all conversations are behind a glove. Sign stealing is old hat. Just make the signs more difficult to read.
9.12.2007 10:57am
JoeSmith:
You really don't see the difference between this and grabbing a player's face mask? Really? One happening in the heat of the moment, usually by accident. One requiring a whole coaching apparatus to be involved, subterfuge, forethought. I mean I guess by your definition a false start is cheating, but I don't think that's really our definition of cheating.

And the difference between the videocamera and pencil and paper....is that one is against the rules and teams had been repeatedly warned that it was against the rules....and Belichick's own team had been suspected of doing this and warned (at least according to reports.) Look, I've got nothing against the Pats. Always kind of liked them. But this seems pretty sleazy to me.
9.12.2007 10:58am
Martin Grant (mail):
>the difference between the videocamera and pencil and paper....is that one is against the rules

I agree that is against the rules. I just question the severity of the violation. A penalty of some kind is warranted but I think people are over blowing this.

>But this seems pretty sleazy to me.

What makes it sleazy? Using the video camera instead of pen and paper or the fact that they did it from the sidelines instead of the stands? Do you think the Jets and every other team doesn't do this without video cameras?

Is it sleazy every time a player is tackled and purposely reaches out to put the football an extra yard down field trying to get an extra foot or two from the referee?
9.12.2007 11:15am
baclaw:
I was a bit skeptical about both how videotaping or photographing signs could affect the course of the game and how videotaping or photographing the signs is any different than simply watching them. Then I got a little bit of education in the video attached to the article in the link.

It turns out that my skepticism may be misplaced. First, videotaping the signals would allow N.E.'s staff to compare a particular hand signal to a particular defensive call, especially if that hand signal was repeated later. The team's staff could compare the defense's pre-signal alignment to both its post-signal alignment and the action taken after the snap to detrmine whether a particular signal meant, for instance, how a defensive lineman was supposed to rush on that particular play. It seems to me that this kind of comparison would be MUCH harder to do in the absence of video or photographs.

Second, if the offense knows what the defense is going to do, then it is much easier for the offense to function effectively. If, for instane, the offense knows for a fact that a linebacker is going to blitz before it snaps the ball, then it will probably have more success with the play.

If the Patriots stole signals, then it probably had some affect on the outcome of the game. Since N.E. had apparently done this before, it is understandable why the NFL may impose some sort of penalty on the organization.
9.12.2007 11:38am
Extraneus (mail):
During the game, Pennington was injured on a sack. What should the penalty be if the sack was helped by a cheat in which the play call was known to the defense in advance of the play?

Since all the consequences of individual acts of cheating may never be known, and it's probably true that cheaters don't get caught every single time they cheat, I think the penalty should be severe when they are.
9.12.2007 11:39am
steve (mail):
Wonder why the Jets suspected the Pats were doing this?


Because when the Jets were illegally filming the Pats, they noticed the Pats were illegally filming them. So the Jets presented the illegal film of the illegal filming, but they got immunity for providing evidence of illegal filming, but only on the condition that the evidence of the illegal filming, which itself was illegal, not be disclosed or admitted to as illegal. The result of which is the Jets are still horrible and the Pats will still be in the post-season.
9.12.2007 12:02pm
Buckland (mail):
I think whether it is illegal or not deals with whether the coach being taped is a citizen or not. The recent wiretapping law allows a FISA (Football Intragame Surveillance Act) warrant to be issued after the fact in extreme circumstances, which this obviously was. Therefore if any party to the communication was not a citizen I think there's no problem.

It'll be interesting to see if this issue is brought up at the hearings of the new Attorney General. Since Senator Leahy is from New England I'm guessing it will be pursued aggressively.
9.12.2007 12:09pm
Bill N:
Wonder why the Jets suspected the Pats were doing this?

I heard on a Boston TV sports report that Mangini recognized the photographer in the coaches' box that he himself had used to videotape opponents' signals when he was defensive coordinator for the Pats.
9.12.2007 12:32pm
CJColucci:
If loss of draft picks is the sanction, it might be a better deterrent if the lost draft picks went to the team against whom you cheated.
9.12.2007 12:33pm
SomeFella (mail):
It's fairly easy to cheat in this situation. At half time you compare the signs you recorded to your pictures of what the defense did prior to and after the snap. Now you know what the coverage will be, where the blitz is coming from, etc.

It's a real big deal. If I know you're playing cover two, I'm sending my tightend on a seam and picking you apart. If I know the blitz is coming from the left, I audible on the line to run right. Information like this can turn a mediocre team into a pretty good one.
9.12.2007 12:40pm
dll111:

Bill N:
Wonder why the Jets suspected the Pats were doing this?

I heard on a Boston TV sports report that Mangini recognized the photographer in the coaches' box that he himself had used to videotape opponents' signals when he was defensive coordinator for the Pats.


That was my point. Of course they got caught when they were playing the Jets - Mangini knows all Belicheck's tricks.
9.12.2007 1:14pm
BVBigBro:
The Jets suspected the Patriots because they were tipped off by the Packers, who complained to the league about the Patriots doing the same thing last season.
9.12.2007 1:45pm
Peter Wimsey:
As a Colts fan, it is clear that the only appropriate penalty is to send Belichick to Guantanamo for an indefinite stay.
9.12.2007 1:50pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
Of course it helps to know the opponent's signals, assuming that they keep them the same from play to play and game to game. There is no way that they do this.

In fact, if Mangini knew what was going on, he might consider not saying anything and then crossing the Pats up at crucial times.


But I really don't see how taking away draft picks is an effective punishment or deterrent, if you buy the idea that this actually helps win a game, which the NFL certainly does. Teams mortgage their future to win now all the time. How is this different?


Suppose they took away all the Patriots' draft picks for the next 3 years.
9.12.2007 2:01pm
TomCS:
As a Brit, lots of things about the major US sports industries are non-obvious to me. Like others my first reaction to this story is how the loss of a few draft picks could be seen as a severe penalty for being caught at (a specifically banned type of) industrial espionage.

But then I remembered my broader concern at why this particular form of 18th Century hiring fair is allowed and protected in 21st century USA: could one of the lawyers on this blog help me to bury the persistent image of the marketing of imported African labour before the civil war (arguably a more legal market in that the purchasers were at least competing with each other)? And don't reply that it's enough that all the prospective picks are not African-American: it's not the racial overtones that worry me as much as the rights of the players at the hiring fair.
9.12.2007 2:18pm
bittern (mail):

The European version of sports is not much better.

I thought our preColumbian sports might be better, but I find "In 1790, the Choctaw and the Creek used a lacrosse game to settle a border dispute, but a controversial refereeing call sparked a deadly battle."

A soccer game can certainly be thrown by a bad call stimulated by an acting job. But Houston, seriously, baseball, football, and hoop have a ton of rules. Unitiated persons can't follow the game. Compliance with the rules is a rich subject for fans to debate. And appeals of calls to the video, or to higher officials, is all part of the game. It's just characteristically American for it to be so. IMO
9.12.2007 2:23pm
ronbo:
Cheating to beat the Jets is like committing war crimes to defeat the French.
9.12.2007 2:40pm
Anderson (mail):
it is clear that the only appropriate penalty is to send Belichick to Guantanamo for an indefinite stay

Not indefinite, just until he can prove he is NOT a member of al-Qaeda. After all, this is America.
9.12.2007 3:08pm
JRghost (www):
I think the entire Pats organization should be sidelined until this matter can be fully investigated. In the meantime, any games on their schedule should be forfeited to the opposing team. The best way to deter cheating is to ostracize the cheater.
9.12.2007 3:34pm
THINKER:
It always amuses me to see the throng of opinion about the violation of a law when 99% have no idea what the law really is. Amare Stoudemaire had already left the bench when the "altercation" began (can't leave bench AFTER altercation), yet Stern maintained that it was "Black Letter Law" when the Suns got screwed. Also, like a previous comment, it's cheating to video play-calling, but perfectly acceptable to hire someone with a photographic memory to look at play-calling?
9.12.2007 3:45pm
THINKER:
I think it is wrong to ostracize a cheater (although, admittedly, I do often cheat an ostrich).
9.12.2007 3:49pm
KeithK (mail):

There are plenty of ways to cheat in football. Grabbing your opponents face mask, hitting a player after the whistle, etc. Is this one more serious?


Holding, grabbing a face mask, late hits, these things are not cheating. They are things that occur during the natural flow of the game and are penalized when they occur (often anyway). Using off-field personnel to steal signs is an entirely different category of offense.

If a player sits on the sidelines and studies the opposing coach to figure out the signs that's part of the game. Just like a baserunner stealing the catcher's signs. Having someone videotape the signs for later study in detail is no part of the game.

Forfeits or replay is probably not feasible or reasonable. But suspending Belichick would seem to be appropriate (as well as others in the organization who it could be proved were involved).

Full disclosure: I am a long time Jets fan. (Yes, I hang my head in shame.)
9.12.2007 3:57pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
1. I hope you guys understand, the tuck rule reference was a JOKE.

2. I am serious, however, that stealing signs are part of the game. Smart teams can deal with this, by using complicated signs, changing them, calling more audibles, etc. Why reward teams that aren't able to make adjustments by punishing teams that use inventive methods to steal signs?
9.12.2007 3:58pm
Ilya Somin:
As a Brit, lots of things about the major US sports industries are non-obvious to me. Like others my first reaction to this story is how the loss of a few draft picks could be seen as a severe penalty for being caught at (a specifically banned type of) industrial espionage.

But then I remembered my broader concern at why this particular form of 18th Century hiring fair is allowed and protected in 21st century USA: could one of the lawyers on this blog help me to bury the persistent image of the marketing of imported African labour before the civil war


Aside from the fact that professional athletes drafted by US sports leagues earn multimillion dollar salaries, there is another even more important difference:

Getting drafted by a particular team does not mean that you have to go to work for them. It just means that you have to work for that team if you want to play in that particular league. The player remains free to accept a contract from a different league in the same sport (e.g. - basketball players who sign up to play in European leagues), or to work in another industry entirely. The NFL and other sports leagues are simply individual firms competing in a larger labor market. The NFL offering a draftee a deal under which he has to play for a specific team if he accepts is not fundamentally different than McDonald's offering a restaurant manager a job conditional on his willingness to operate a franchise in Cleveland. Of course the NFL's offer is much more attractive than McDonalds' but that does not make it somehow more coercive.
9.12.2007 5:26pm
milky way banana status (mail):
According to recently released documents, many players in the NFL are recording all aspects of the game. This is for many reasons.


1.) These motha fuckers are lookin fo bitches

2.) Cant we all just get along?
9.12.2007 5:38pm
milky way banana status (mail):
kl
9.12.2007 5:41pm
milky way banana status (mail):
dasd
9.12.2007 5:41pm
milky way banana status (mail):
i meant to say fuckers
9.12.2007 5:42pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Are we sure that Belichick isn't allowed to perform this sort of surveillance pursuant to the PATRIOT Act?

Nick
9.12.2007 5:54pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
Belichick getting suspended makes the most sense to me. I like the parallel with player suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs.
9.12.2007 7:10pm
Rubber Goose (mail):
Disclosure: I'm a Pats fan.

I don't think it's that big a deal, since, as commenters have said above, teams can (and do) change their signals all the time, both within game and game to game. Especially since it has been rumored the Patriots have done this for years. (Hmm...even when Mangini worked for them!)

Having said that, I would have no problem with Belichick being suspended for 4 games. I even would think it would be kind of cool if Bob Kraft stood up and said "We won't stand for this in my organization. I have terminated Bill Belichick's contract as of today."
9.12.2007 7:24pm
Hello in Thar:
"We won't stand for this in my organization. I have terminated Bill Belichick's contract as of today."

Don't tease.
9.13.2007 2:02am
Jetsfan:
Yes I am a Jets fan. I believe the question was "Why would such a great team cheat to beat a mediocre team." Let's face it, the Pats are a great team and would have won either way (perhaps by a smaller margin without knowing the defensive signals)
Why indeed. Why did Napoleon invade Russia? Why did Nixon authorize bugging the Democrats at Watergate? Neither were even remotely needed. Arrogance and greed at work here.
9.13.2007 2:29am
bryan (mail):
so obvious who the fair weather, er i mean pats fans are. its funny too because the pats are known for being a second half team. hmmmmmmm. bottom line is they broke the rules. as dumb as some rules or a call sounds, its the rules. im sure to some extent all teams do it or have done it, MAYBE, but to get caught twice. WOW YOU MORONS!!to get caught twice you must had to of been doing it all the time. its probably a routine of there game. why else would they do it against the jets of all teams. one game can affect a whole season. its not baseball where they play the same team for a week multiple times a year. some say if the other team was smart they would change there signs. kinda true, but they shouldnt have to assume the other team is gonna cheat. same thing as looking at ur buddies play in madden. obviously you cant replay the game or even rule it as jets win and them forfeiting future games is just dumb. suspension or a fine is probably whats gonna happen if not one both. i think the ultimate punishment now would just be having them seem very questionable in the future, like in 15 years or even next week there gonna ask were they really that good? "they won 3 superbowls" "but they cheated" and so on. brady will be quoted saying "i didnt know we were cheating i thought our off cor was psychic". lol. but knowing the pats they'll probably catch a break on this too.
9.13.2007 2:35am
paulpatriot (mail):
Bunch of BIG BABY Witch hunters !! Let it go.....I'm sure evry team in every pro sport cheats or has cheated....too much money involved not to.....
9.13.2007 4:48pm
Randy Russell:
I think it should be a Forfeit. This isnt fair for the new york jets. The patriots have been warned multiple times about this issue.. if the patriots are a better team then why in the fucking world did they cheat And yes im a jets fan
9.13.2007 6:04pm
Big Lou from Southie (mail):
This is so much to do about nothing other than a bunch of losers crying sour grapes. Whether you use a video or a pad of paper it does not matter. You need the brains and the talent to read a defense and execute an audible. How many times does Brady change a play at the line of scrimage due to what he sees rather than what is told him through his helmet. Do you really think that a video can be used during the game to change the outcome. Let's be real. Teams change signals at half time anyway and if you think they don't all of you are really naive.

I prefer to wait until all the evidence is in before I make any decision about guilt.

LT should learn to shut his mouth and not act like a spoiled brat. The reason that San Diego lost last year was that they choked, nothing else.. And please tell me that LT never celebarted a TD or a win. It does not matter where you celebrate, it is still celebration...LT hates to lose and I understand that but grow up LT and shut up.

Finally, the rest of the coaches and players just need to quit complaining, especially that imature, unsofisticated, disloyal traitor Eric Manginni. The Jets management get what they deserve for hiring someone with such an incomplete resume and experience. They will be lucky to win 4 games this year even if they were allowed to video tape. They would not know what to do with it.

This is nothing more than the I hate the Yankee syndrone. Some people, especially the ESPN commentaters can not accept the fact that success comes from rains, talent, bexecution, desire and luck. All is needed.
9.13.2007 6:44pm
Jetsfan:
The tail of the tape will be how well the Pats do against the highly motivated Chargers. Whoever wins on an even field will be the better team. If the Patriots get their asses kicked big time, then we know that everything about their success is suspect. They need to win or keep it close or the * will forever be mentally added to their legacy.
9.14.2007 10:36pm
bryan (mail):
i love how the only people defending them are pats fans. like trying to find a legitimate excuse for cheating.
9.16.2007 6:28am
BigRubes (mail):
BIG LOU FROM SOUTHIE

Finally, the rest of the coaches and players just need to quit complaining, especially that imature, unsofisticated, disloyal traitor Eric Manginni

are you kidding me you fool. Now i have absolutley know that you know NOTHING. i was kinda agreeing with you in some aspects but now i know ur full of shit buddy. you still actually have a lil brown piece on the corner of your lip of how much shit you just said. LMAO the jets will be lucky to win 4 games this season cause of mangini?? rofl. he is the sole reason they did ok last season with NOTHING, not like they have much now but he made the jets 10 times better in his FIRST season than they have been since herman edwards bought the to the playoffs with curtis martin running for them. JETS HAD NOTHING and they still made something of their season. So... you keep crying sour grapes when mangini is one day declared one of the best coaches in football. his first season with a terrible team and he does that with them, i mean be real you fool.

And for you "jetsfan"
The tail of the tape will be how well the Pats do against the highly motivated Chargers. Whoever wins on an even field will be the better team. If the Patriots get their asses kicked big time, then we know that everything about their success is suspect. They need to win or keep it close or the * will forever be mentally added to their legacy.

I agree. lets see how their entire season goes after this. i bet any amount of money to anyone of my friends that they will be a MEDIOCOR team. maybe a lil better considering the veterans they have on their team but all in all i think this season will determine how much the pats actually rely on these signal stealing videotapes. After that Big lou you can just bend over cause then we can all hear you better cause you do nothing but talk out of your ass!!! rofl
9.16.2007 6:47am
BigRubes (mail):
lol. i know right bryan. they are all basically saying, "der so what if they cheated, that doesnt mean anything" rofl. but deep in their hearts they are saying to themselves, "well i'm glad we won but damn that is a shady thing to do" honestly if other teams are doing it i really dont think its that many. maybe just just like 2 or 3 cuase if more teams were doing it this would be a much bigger issue cuase the amount of times done you will get caught eventually and bill got busted twice.
9.16.2007 6:52am