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NFL Player Got Special Treatment After Domestic Violence Accusation

Even after sheriff’s deputies arrived at her Weston, Fla., home, Kristen Lennon remained in the bathroom, afraid to leave. Minutes earlier, she had fled there for safety as she called 911, telling the operator that her fiancé had thrown her on the bed and hit her in the face and head. She was two months pregnant.

“Please help,” Ms. Lennon said, her voice shaking. “He’s way bigger than me.” The couple’s first child was nearby in their bedroom.

On the other side of the bathroom door was Phillip Merling, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound defensive end for the Miami Dolphins. When deputies from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office arrived at about 1:30 a.m. on May 27, 2010, they found Ms. Lennon with redness and swelling on her face and a cut on her lip.

What happened next illustrated how relationships between National Football League teams and local law enforcement agencies can lead to special treatment for players.

Minutes after Mr. Merling was taken into custody, Stuart Weinstein, the Dolphins’ longtime security director, was working his contacts in the Sheriff’s Office, trying to confirm the arrest and get information on Mr. Merling’s status. At one point, Mr. Weinstein asked a commander who worked side jobs for the Dolphins to notify him when Mr. Merling’s bond was posted. The commander said he would, according to an internal affairs investigation.

Mr. Merling was booked on charges of aggravated domestic battery on a pregnant woman. Almost all inmates are required to leave the jail through the public front door and arrange their own transportation home, but Mr. Merling was granted an unusual privilege: He was escorted out a rear exit by a deputy, evading reporters. The commander, who was off duty and in uniform, drove Mr. Merling in an unmarked car to the Dolphins’ training complex 20 minutes away.

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