posted on Feb, 16 2005 @ 06:02 AM
Civil trial may link Balco, NFL
By Elliott Almond, Mercury News
A $3.8 million civil suit against former Raider Bill Romanowski begins with jury selection Thursday in Alameda County Court, with the promise of
exploring the often-brutal world of the NFL -- including steroid use.
While baseball reels from Jose Canseco's new tell-all book about steroids, Romanowski's trial in Oakland could add to the growing fervor over drugs
The case is sure to involve Balco Laboratories because of Romanowski's long association with Victor Conte Jr., the chief co-defendant in the criminal
Former Raiders tight end Marcus Williams says his career ended because of brain damage suffered when Romanowski hit him on the practice field in
August 2003. The defense says the status of Williams' career has nothing to do with the incident.
Williams' lawyer plans to say Romanowski was experiencing " 'roid rage" when he punched Williams after a routine play, according to court records.
To make its case, Williams' legal team has turned to Balco. Lawyers for Balco defendants James Valente and Remi Korchemny said Tuesday that their
clients were subpoenaed by the plaintiff to testify.
Troy Ellerman, Valente's lawyer, said the Balco vice president would decline to answer questions. "I don't think Jim has anything to add to that case
anyway," he said.
Korchemny's lawyer, George Walker, said the track coach would not answer questions because of the ongoing criminal case.
The defense won a motion to stop a subpoena for Conte.
In 2003, Romanowski testified before a grand jury investigating Balco and was one of four Raiders to test positive for the designer steroid THG, the
drug at the center of the Balco scandal.
According to a memorandum prepared by Internal Revenue Service investigator Jeff Novitzky, Valente told authorities that Romanowski received steroids
and the human growth hormone from Balco when the linebacker played for the Denver Broncos. Valente's lawyers have disputed parts of the memorandum.
Romanowski, 38, was a member of the Broncos from 1996 to 2001 before signing with the Raiders. He began his career with the 49ers.
The Raiders and NFL also received subpoenas seeking information showing Romanowski used drugs, court records say. Romanowski denied using steroids
during the week before the incident, his pre-trial testimony says.
According to court papers, Williams' lawyers will argue that Romanowski -- a workout and nutrition fanatic -- used steroids, which led to the fight
Aug. 24. Don Catlin, director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, gave expert testimony in December on the psychological effects of steroids.
The lawyers also plan to explore Romanowski's history of altercations, including those with 49ers teammate Bubba Paris in 1989, Arizona Cardinals
running back Larry Centers in 1995 and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez in 1999.
Romanowski retired from the NFL last year.
Williams, a former Berkeley High and Washington State player, said a blow by Romanowski caused a brain injury. The defense disputes the claim and
characterizes the fight as "a mutual altercation."
James Brosnahan, Williams' lawyer, declined to discuss the case. He also declined to make Williams available for comment.
Williams' grandmother, Lavitus Guillory of Emeryville, said her 27-year-old grandson is living with her. She said his injuries have not healed and
that the former player isn't working.
"I don't know what he is going to do," she said Tuesday. "It just messed up his life."
Romanowski contends in court documents that Williams' career did not end because of the fight. The defense said Williams tried out for the Miami
Dolphins in 2004 but did not make the team.
Former Raiders Coach Bill Callahan said in pre-trial testimony that he did not expect Williams to make the 2003 roster even before the incident.
"We did not see a future in him," Callahan said in a deposition. "I just wanted to move on and get a better player in."
According to court records, the fight began with a drill in which Williams was assigned to block Romanowski. He steered Romanowski to the sideline and
then gave him a shove from behind. The shoving escalated; the players grabbed each other's face masks.
Williams' helmet flew off in the tussle as Romanowski struck him in the eye, fracturing the orbital bone.
The Raiders fined Romanowski $58,823.52 for his role in the fight, records show