New York - A US federal judge on Thursday overturned a four-game suspension imposed on New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady by the National Football League for his alleged role in the "Deflate-gate" controversy.
The ruling was a stunning legal victory for Brady, one of the sport's biggest names, who had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in connection with the intentional deflating of footballs before a January playoff game.
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A league investigation had found that Brady was probably "generally aware" that Patriots employees had purposely deflated the balls.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended him for the first four games of the 2015-16 season over the incident at the AFC championship, which the Patriots went on to win over the Indianapolis Colts.
But Judge Richard Berman determined that Goodell had gone too far with the punishment.
"The Management Council's motion to confirm the arbitration award is denied and the Players Association's motion to vacate the arbitration award is granted," Berman wrote in a 40-page decision.
"Brady's four-game suspension is vacated, effective immediately."
NFL investigator Ted Wells found Brady uncooperative when asking questions about the game.
In the appeal hearing in June, Brady was found to have destroyed a cell phone but said he typically does that to preserve family privacy. He is married to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
Berman explained his decision by saying Brady's game suspension had been based on "several significant legal deficiencies."
Among them, he said Brady had been given "inadequate notice" of potential disciplinary action and his alleged misconduct, and been denied equal access to investigative files, including witness interview notes.
Berman intervened after the two sides were unable to reach a settlement.