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Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill won’t be suspended by NFL following league’s own investigation

Timeline: Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be suspended by NFL

On Friday July 19, 2019, the NFL announced that Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill would not be suspended, meaning that he can now return to practice and club activities. Here is a timeline of events that led to the NFL's ultimate decision.
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On Friday July 19, 2019, the NFL announced that Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill would not be suspended, meaning that he can now return to practice and club activities. Here is a timeline of events that led to the NFL's ultimate decision.

Tyreek Hill will not be suspended following the NFL’s four-month investigation of child abuse reports involving the Chiefs wide receiver and his former fiancee, Crystal Espinal, the league announced Friday.

“Based on the evidence presently available, the NFL cannot conclude that Mr. Hill violated the Personal Conduct Policy,” the NFL said in a statement. “Accordingly, he may attend Kansas City’s training camp and participate in all club activities.

“He has been and will continue to be subject to conditions set forth by the District Court, Commissioner Goodell, and the Chiefs, which include clinical evaluation and therapeutic intervention.”

Hill is expected to be at training camp with the Chiefs when team veterans report to St. Joseph on July 26.

“Based on the information provided to us by the league, we have decided it is appropriate for Tyreek to return to the team at the start of training camp,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “The club fully supports the conditions for return laid out by the league and will continue to monitor any new developments in the case.

“We are glad to welcome Tyreek back to the team and look forward to the start of training camp next week.”

Addressing the public for the first time since he was barred from team activities in April, Hill wrote he respects and accepts the NFL’s decision in a statement on Twitter.

“To the fans, friends and family that I have made in Kansas City: I love you and thank you for your continued support,” Hill wrote. “To the NFLPA, Mr. Ned Ehrlich: thank you for your dedication, understanding and guidance throughout this process.

“To the NFL, Commissioner Goodell and everyone who assisted in this investigation: thank you for your time and for conducting a thorough investigation. I will not let you down.”

Hill has been suspended from the Chiefs since April 25, the day after Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe declined to file charges in the child abuse case involving Hill and his then-fiancee, Crystal Espinal. The case is related to their son, who turned 4 earlier this month.

The child, the NFL said in its statement, is safe.

“Throughout this investigation, the NFL’s primary concern has been the well-being of the child,” the statement said. “Our understanding is that the child is safe and that the child’s ongoing care is being directed and monitored by the Johnson County District Court and the Johnson County Department for Children and Families.”

NFL investigators didn’t meet with Hill until late last month. The interview, which took place in Kansas City and lasted eight hours, was conducted by NFL Special Counsel for Investigations Lisa Friel, sources told The Star. Jennifer Gaffney, who works with Friel, was also reportedly present, along with Hill’s legal representation.

“In conducting our investigation, we have taken great care to ensure that we do not interfere with the county’s proceedings or compromise the privacy or welfare of the child in any way,” the league said in a statement. “The information developed in the court proceeding is confidential and has not been shared with us, and the court has sealed all law enforcement records. Local law enforcement authorities have publicly advised that the available evidence does not permit them to determine who caused the child’s injuries. “

A source told the Star that multiple members of both Espinal’s and Hill’s families were interviewed in the investigation. The NFL also made multiple attempts to interview Espinal, but she declined through her attorney.

A call to Espinal’s counsel was not immediately returned Friday.

The league also said in the statement that if more information became available through “law enforcement, the pending court proceeding or other sources” it would consider it and take all appropriate steps at that time.

Howe told The Star late last month that someone from the league contacted his office immediately following his April news conference, requesting records, but there had been no contact since.

When contacted Friday about the NFL’s decision, Howe responded by email: “We are not making any further comments regarding these cases.”

Mike Deines, a spokesman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, said he “couldn’t confirm or deny” if the NFL has contacted the DCF agency.

“Due to confidentiality laws, we can’t get into specifics about any case,” Deines said.

During the NFL’s investigation, the league obtained the entire 11-minute audio recording of a conversation between Hill and Espinal, a source told The Star. The audio, which Espinal recorded, was first aired in clips on a local television station on April 25, hours before general manager Brett Veach announced Hill’s suspension.

The full audio, played by 610 AM last week, filled in the gaps of the recording initially played by KCTV-5 in abbreviated clips.

The majority of the new material centered around Hill’s 2014 arrest for domestic abuse by strangulation against Espinal when he was a student at Oklahoma State.

Hill was dismissed from the football team and pleaded guilty to the charge in August 2015 and served three years probation, but in the audio aired on 610 he denied that he had harmed Espinal. The conviction was dismissed in August 2018 and was expunged after Hill completed his probation requirements.

Hill: That 2014 (expletive), that’s old. That’s a lie too. On me, that’s a lie.

Espinal: But you sitting here calling me a bitch and everything else—

Hill: But that’s what you is, bro. You (expletive) ruined my life. You lied on me in 2014.

Espinal: How did I lie about—

Hill: I didn’t touch you in 2014. And put that on everything I love, bro. That’s the real truth.

Later in the recording, Hill continued to deny that he harmed Espinal in the 2014 incident. And he denied that he had ever hurt his son.

Hill, 25, has been barred from team activities for nearly three months, but he has been working out with teammates in the area. Wide receiver Gehrig Dieter retweeted a photo of himself with Hill after one such workout in late June.

Howe told The Star last month that the criminal child abuse probe “is not an active investigation.” But he also told The Star that comments he made during an April 24 news conference “still hold true.” At that time, Howe said he believed Hill and Espinal’s son had been hurt but couldn’t prove who did it.

Though the criminal investigation is no longer active, Hill and Espinal do have an ongoing case with Kansas DCF. Generally speaking, such cases can take weeks, months or even years for families to receive the services they need.

News surfaced in mid-March that Overland Park police took two reports at Hill’s Johnson County home, one for battery and the other for child abuse and neglect. The police reports, dated March 5 and March 14, involved a juvenile.

The Star reported on April 18 that sources said the child was removed from the custody of Hill and the boy’s mother. It isn’t clear if that status has changed.

A week later, after Howe said he wouldn’t be filing charges, a Kansas City television station aired only parts of that taped recording of a graphic conversation between Hill and Espinal — who was pregnant with twins at the time.

In a four-page letter sent to the NFL on May 2, an attorney for Hill denied the child abuse claims that were alluded to in the audio recording, which was allegedly made by Espinal in a Dubai airport.

The letter disputes nearly every claim made in the snippets of the recording aired by the Kansas City television station.

In court papers filed July 11, Espinal said the twins were born earlier in the month and that they live were her. The petition seeks to establish paternity and determine parenting time for Hill and child support to be paid.

The filing said that Espinal and Hill “are not married, never have been married, and do not intend to be married.”

Prior to the NFL’s investigation, the Chiefs were expected to engage in talks with Hill to make him one of the league’s highest paid receivers.

Though the NFL’s investigation is concluded, the club will likely let some time pass before re-engaging in those talks, a source told The Star. The team isn’t expected to rush into a new contract with Hill, who enters the final year of his rookie deal this season, before the end of training camp.

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Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs for the Kansas City Star, where she works to give readers a deeper understanding of the franchise and the NFL through daily stories, game coverage, and player profiles. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Laura Bauer came to The Star in 2005 after spending much of her life in southwest Missouri. She’s a member of the investigative team focusing on watchdog journalism. In her 25-year career, Laura’s stories on child welfare, human trafficking, crime and Kansas secrecy have been nationally recognized.
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