The attorney general of Alabama, Charles Graddick, investigated the matter, and he says, "If you could convict on speculation, we'd have a pretty good case. But that's not the law."
Some speculation revolved around Randall Watson, because he had indeed asked Joyce Dykes, a waitress who works at a Gulf Shores restaurant called Lefty's, to buy him a magnetic key case precisely like the one found under Padecky's fender. The reason, Watson told the Mobile Register, was that he was constantly locking his keys in the car and wanted an extra set available. Yes, indeed, that was true, confirmed Dykes, who reportedly said, "He locked himself out of his car about a thousand times. We were all teasing him about it all the time." Watson, in fact, showed a reporter that he still had the key case she bought for him, but a receipt showed that she had apparently bought two of them. Dykes has refused to discuss the matter further, and Watson is the only person involved in the case who has refused to be interviewed by Graddick's investigators. "With the evidence we have now," says Graddick, "we can't convict anyone. But we'd still like to talk to Watson."
As for Stabler, he said of the suggestion that he was involved in the setup, "I know absolutely nothing. He [Padecky] is implying that I invited him down here so he could get busted. He is sadly mistaken. I don't stoop to those kinds of measures." Padecky himself says he didn't imply anything. He said not long after the incident, "Who set me up, I don't know. I want to make that more than perfectly clear."
The FBI carried out what it called a "cursory" investigation of the arrest to determine whether Padecky's civil rights had been violated. Donald H. Roberts, the assistant agent in charge of the FBI office in Mobile, says, "We instituted inquiries into Mr. Padecky's arrest and subsequent police escort out of town. This is a routine procedure, and I believe our source was newspaper accounts. As far as I know, no one made a request that we investigate. Our investigation was very cursory. If the Department of Justice feels a full-scale investigation is warranted, they will order one and we will perform it."
The NFL was ultimately involved because of Stabler. Commissioner Pete Rozelle made several statements. At first he promised that the NFL would "scrutinize" the situation. Later Rozelle said that the case had been "investigated" and the NFL was able to say there was "no problem" of any complicity in the setup on the part of Stabler. Most recently, Rozelle issued this brief statement: "We obtained all available information from Alabama law-enforcement officials concerning the Gulf Shores incident and have no plans to look into it further."
However, neither the Gulf Shores police nor the state attorney general nor the FBI gave any report to the NFL. Indeed, as far as they know, none of these agencies has even been contacted by the NFL—nor have Padecky and his lawyer, nor Stabler and his lawyer, nor anyone else closely involved with the case.
An element that was not clear until about two weeks after Padecky's arrest was whether or not the laboratory found the white powder in the key case to be cocaine. The powder was indeed cocaine, at least partly, for it was diluted. Of the .71 gram of powder about one-third was cocaine, with a street value of less than $100. If this was indeed a "prank," whoever set up Padecky was playing a dangerous game; the reporter would have been just as discommoded if the key case had been filled with sugar. Had the affair backfired, Padecky—or, for that matter, the pranksters—could have been charged with a felony: possession of cocaine, which, in Alabama, could have resulted in a two-to-15-year jail term.
In any case, whoever wanted to frighten Padecky succeeded beyond their meanest dreams. The day after his arrest, Padecky filed a first-person story to the Bee that was fraught with cold fear. He termed it "the most terrifying day of my life" and went on to relate, "With my hands handcuffed behind me, I was driven to the Gulf Shores police headquarters. On the way, the officer read me my rights. I was terrified. My stomach was heaving. My palms were clammy. I am 32 years old and the closest I have ever been to a jail was my television set." That story received front-page play in many papers across the country.
Two days later, on Page One of the See, another article by Padecky appeared under the headline: INTIMIDATION GETS NEW MEANING IN A JAIL CELL.
He wrote of his five minutes in jail: "...I was alone in that cell. With my emotions. With the graffiti. With my life flashing before my eyes. 'Padecky, is this how it's going to end? Right here, under a sketch of a naked woman? My career, my life. Right now?'