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Class action suit asks for more than $100 million from Patriots, Belichick

NEW ORLEANS -- A class action lawsuit filed in federal court here Friday claims that the New England Patriots "fraudulent videotaping" of the St. Louis Rams' walk-through prior to Super Bowl XXXVI 2002 Super Bowl should cost the team damages in excess of $100 million.

The suit targets the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick. The suit says: "The basis of this action is that the Defendants illegally videotaped the St. Louis Rams ("Rams") "walk through" prior to the 2002 Super Bowl for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage in the game." It claims the Patriots were engaged in fraud, racketeering, breach of contract, and were in violation of Louisiana's unfair trade practices and consumer protection act.

A report in the Boston Herald on Feb. 2 cited an unnamed source close to the Patriots during the 2001 season as saying a member of the team's video staff stayed behind and taped the Rams' walk-through the day before the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

The Patriots beat the heavily favored Rams 20-17 for their first Super Bowl title. Patriots media relations official Stacey James said of the videotaping charge: "The coaches have no knowledge of it," according to the Herald.

No evidence of a videotape of the walk-through has been found.

The suit is filed on behalf of Willie Gary, identified as a Rams employee and football player (he played seven games for the team in the 2001 season), an owner of a St. Louis seat license and two ticket purchasers and attendees of the Super Bowl. It seeks restitution for three classes: Rams players, coaches, staff and employees of the team that met New England in the Super Bowl in 2002, all 72,922 fans who attended the game, and owners of St. Louis Rams seat licenses for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

It asks for $35 million in damages, which would be tripled under a federal racketeering act dating back to the 1970s, plus punitive damages and attorney fees.