Mass. suspects in NFL call prank free without bail
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Two Massachusetts men accused of initiating a phone call between two NFL general managers, recording it and selling the audio remained free without bail Tuesday after answering to federal wiretapping charges.
Joshua Barber and Nicholas Kaiser declined to speak with reporters after appearing briefly with their lawyers in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, where the judge entered not guilty pleas on their behalf and released them.
The two 20-year-olds from Plymouth, Mass., had been angling for an NFL tryout for Barber, a part-time deli worker, when they posed as Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik in March and dialed Buffalo Bills then-GM Buddy Nix, according to the criminal complaint.
Barber, a Bills fan, got nervous when Nix answered, so Barber hung up, investigators said. Barber then called Dominik’s office and while he was being connected, Nix called Barber’s number back, thinking he had been disconnected from Dominik, authorities said.
Barber used the call merge function on his iPhone to connect the two GMs and put them on speaker phone, investigators said. Kaiser used his cellphone to record the ensuing nearly six-minute conversation, according to the complaint.
After shopping the recording around to various news outlets, Deadspin.com paid the men $200, which they split, the complaint said.
“Mark, dadgum, son, I’ve called you back 100 times,” Nix tells Dominik on the recording.
“Have you?” asks Dominik.
The GMs, each thinking the other initiated the call, complain a bit about free agency rules before Nix talks about his team’s struggles with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was later cut.
“And when I say struggling, we’re not really struggling, he’s going to have to do something or we’ll have to,” Nix said. “You know he’ll have to. You can’t afford that kind of money for a guy that’s fighting for probably a backup job.”
“It’s a weird spot,” Dominik replies.
The call ends with Dominik telling Nix: “I appreciate the phone call. Take care, buddy.”
Barber and Kaiser could not have planned the prank, Kaiser’s attorney Rodney Personius said, noting the “perfect storm” of Nix calling back while Dominik was on the line.
“It wasn’t an intentional or premeditated act,” Personius said.
“Mr. Barber is of the belief he has the skills to play in the NFL,” Personius said, “and was endeavoring to get the attention of Mr. Nix to get a tryout.”
Barber and Kaiser had in the past called the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens of the NHL, as well as the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks and other teams trying to secure tryouts, the criminal complaint said.
Kaiser works for a moving company and plans to join the Coast Guard, the lawyer said.
If convicted, Kaiser and Barber could face up to five years in prison. Personius said he’s open to a pretrial resolution of the case, while questioning whether the 1968 statute the men are charged under contemplates the type of technology used in this case.
Barber was assigned a public defender, who declined to comment.
The Buffalo Bills said the team would continue to avoid discussing the subject Tuesday. The Buccaneers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.