Eli Manning is in need of a good defense.
Lawyers for a sports memorabilia dealer who claims Manning and Giants employees passed along bogus game-used helmets have filed new court paperwork that includes a potentially damning email from the two-time Super Bowl MVP.
“2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli,” the quarterback wrote to Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba from his AOL account in 2010.
The legal filing, submitted Tuesday in Bergen County Superior Court, is part of a lawsuit alleging that team employees created and sold dozens of fake items to sell to collectors and fans.
The Giants, who have handed over emails dating back to 2003, withheld the bombshell exchange, but Manning turned it over last week, according to the paperwork.
“Eli Manning, to his credit, he and his lawyers did produce this email, that is the basis for the newest bit of what is going on,” Brian Brook, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit, told the Daily News on Thursday.
Manning’s email followed an April 27, 2010, request from his marketing agent, Alan Zucker, who asked if he could drum up “2 game used helmets and 2 game used jerseys.”
Skiba emailed Manning later the same day.
“Let me know what your looking for I’ll try to get something down for you…,” he wrote.
“2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli,” Manning responded.
Minutes later he replied to Zucker, writing: “Should be able to get them for tomorrow.”
Manning, according to the suit, participated in the scheme because he wanted to keep items he used in important games.
The lawsuit also claims the Giants’ general counsel, William Heller, convinced clubhouse employees to lie to federal agents investigating fraud in sports memorabilia about bogus helmets and jerseys in order to save their jobs and protect the NFL teams.
Memorabilia dealer Eric Inselberg, along with Michael Jakab and Sean Godown, filed the suit against Manning, Skiba, Heller, the Giants and the team’s owners in January 2014. He was among a group of memorabilia dealers accused of selling counterfeit jerseys following an FBI sting.
The other dealers pleaded guilty, but Inselberg chose to fight the charges.
The Department of Justice eventually dropped its case against Inselberg after his lawyers claimed Giants employees and other witnesses lied to federal agents and the Illinois grand jury that indicted him.
The ongoing lawsuit against Manning and the team has included past blockbuster allegations.
In papers added to the suit last year, Inselberg claims that Big Blue snuffed one of their biggest stars by selling Inselberg an authentic item.
Court papers allege that Skiba sold the dealer Michael Strahan’s game worn jersey from the 2008 Super Bowl and gave the defensive powerhouse a bogus replacement.
In earlier documents, Skiba allegedly admitted to Inselberg that Manning was in on the scheme to pass off equipment as game used.
“BS ones, you are correct…” Skiba wrote to the dealer in a 2008 email when asked about Eli not wanting to give up “the real stuff.”
Brook said he was taken aback by the latest round of exchanges.
“I was skeptical myself that this was something that really went up to Eli Manning,” he told The News. “There was a New York Giants equipment guy (Joseph Skiba) saying Eli Manning told him to do it, but how much credibility does that guy have when he lied to a grand jury? That caused my client, Eric Inselberg, to get wrongly indicted for mail fraud for selling fake stuff. The story here is the documents.”
A spokeswoman for McCarter English, attorneys for the Giants, said Inselberg and the other plaintiffs are just looking to score a payday with the lawsuit and the latest filing.
“The email, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday,” Karen Kessler said in a statement. “The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server.
Eli Manning is well known for his integrity and this is just the latest misguided attempt to defame his character,” she added.