What to Know About the Allegations Against Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson

Aug. 2, 2022, 2:06 p.m. ET Article Source By Nytimes :-  The N.F.L. the quarterback was punished for breaking the league’s personal conduct policy by receiving a six-game suspension. Of the 24 civil complaints against him that alleged a pattern of coercive and indecent behavior, he has settled 23 of them.

Deshaun Watson was the subject of a 15-month investigation by the NFL into allegations of sexual assault made against him by more than two dozen women. On Monday, Deshaun Watson was found guilty of breaching the N.F.L.’s personal conduct policy and was given a six-game suspension without being punished.

In response to allegations of coercive and obscene sexual behaviour during massage treatments, Deshaun Watson vehemently disputed them and agreed to pay 23 of the 24 civil complaints, including two that alleged sexual assault. Two Texas counties’ grand juries decided not to indict him.

Deshaun Watson

Sue L. Robinson, a retired federal judge who was jointly selected by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to oversee player discipline, issued the decision. A written appeal must be submitted by the league and the players’ union within three business days, and it will be reviewed by Commissioner Roger Goodell or a representative of his choosing. Deshaun Watson’s ban can be prolonged by Goodell or his representative if an appeal is made.

It closed a significant gap between the punishment each side had argued for in the case and was the first player disciplinary judgment to be handled via the arbitration procedure introduced by the 2020 CBA. The union and Deshaun Watson’s lawyers sought for a lighter punishment, while the N.F.L. had recommended Deshaun Watson get an indefinite suspension and a minimum one-season wait before he could ask for reinstatement.

The players’ union announced on Sunday that it will not file an appeal and urged the N.F.L. to follow Robinson’s judgment as well.

Who is Deshaun Watson?

One of the top quarterbacks in the N.F.L., 26-year-old Deshaun Watson is a star.

He committed to the Houston Texans until 2025 by signing a four-year contract extension in September 2020 with a guaranteed value of roughly $111 million. However, Deshaun Watson requested a trade after becoming frustrated with the organization’s bad personnel decisions and breach of a promise to engage him in the hiring of a new coach and general manager. There was a standoff because the Texans declared they had no interest in trading for him. He ended up not participating at all in the 2021 season while still being a Texan.

Deshaun Watson was dealt to the Cleveland Browns in March for three first-round picks, as well as two more picks. The largest sum of money guaranteed in league history will go to Watson, who will receive $230 million over five years.

His signing caused discord among Browns supporters; although some were happy to have a star player join the team, others were alarmed by the accusations made against him. Most people just felt torn.

Among Black athletes who have denounced racial injustice and police violence, Deshaun Watson has been a strong voice. He participated in a player-led film that pushed the league to back player demonstrations during the 2020 offseason, and after Houston native George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Watson marched in a downtown demonstration with his family. Floyd was born and raised in Houston.

Deshaun Watson

What was Deshaun Watson accused of?

In civil actions brought in Harris County, Texas, 24 women accused Deshaun Watson of abuse. According to their legal counsel Tony Buzbee, the women’s allegations of sexual misbehaviour and coercive behaviour against Watson were mostly repeated by one another.

All but one of the 24 women who brought civil claims against Deshaun Watson have reached agreements. Ahead of Robinson issuing her decision, Watson struck agreements with three more women, including Ashley Solis, a certified massage therapist who brought the first lawsuit against Watson in March 2021. In June, twenty lawsuits were settled.

In two of the cases, there were allegations of sexual assault. Deshaun Watson is alleged to have forced women to engage in oral sex while receiving massages in both cases, and in one case, she was also charged with grabbing a woman’s buttocks and vagina. According to the civil lawsuits, Deshaun Watson engaged in a pattern of indecent behaviour with women he hired to perform personal services, forcing them to touch him in a sexual way, exposing himself to the women he hired for massages, or shifting his body in ways that made them have to touch his penis. The incidents mentioned in the lawsuits were allegedly committed between March 2020 and March 2021.

In April 2021, two of Deshaun Watson’s accusers came out and made public declarations outlining their claimed encounters. During a press conference organized in Buzbee’s office, Solis, the first of the women to launch a lawsuit, read from a statement. One of Buzbee’s associates read a letter that Lauren Baxley, another lady, wrote to Watson and gave.

The use of pseudonyms in civil lawsuits was cited as a breach of Texas state law by Deshaun Watson’s attorneys in a motion they had filed prior to the settlements, seeking the court to order all the plaintiffs to reveal their identities. For “doing discovery by Facebook and trial by press conference” and for “seeking the public to participate as judge and jury,” they denounced Buzbee.

Civil assault is described as touching someone in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive by Meredith J. Duncan, a professor of tort law and criminal law at the University of Houston Law Center.

Duncan stated, “It just so happens that the civil assault in this case concerns his genitals. But coercing someone into engaging in sexual activity is a more severe type of sexual assault.

What are the most recent discoveries?

Deshaun Watson has scheduled massage sessions with at least 66 different women between fall 2019 and spring 2021, according to a New York Times investigation that was published in June. Additional women, some of whom have not filed lawsuits, claimed Deshaun Watson asked for sexual activities.

The probe also revealed the strategies Deshaun Watson employed to reassure the ladies that he was trustworthy, such as Instagram chats and assurances to Black therapists that he was making an effort to “help Black businesses.”

Deshaun Watson gave a Houston spa owner $5,000 in November 2020, which the owner claimed was for spa equipment. Dionne Louis had set up several massage appointments for Deshaun Watson through her.

The Times investigation also showed that Deshaun Watson had a nondisclosure agreement for the therapists to sign that had been given to him by the Texans.

How far along are the legal cases?

According to plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee, Deshaun Watson negotiated agreements with 23 of the 24 women who brought sexual misconduct claims against him.

Buzbee stated in a statement from June that the terms and sums of the settlements were private and that those proceedings would be dropped once they were resolved. Rusty Hardin, Deshaun Watson’s attorney, remained silent but did not dispute that settlements had been reached.

One of the four women claimed that the Texans “turned a blind eye” to Deshaun Watson’s behavior with female massage therapists in a new lawsuit she filed against the team in June. The woman claimed that, as The Times reported, the team helped Deshaun Watson by giving him a nondisclosure agreement to give to therapists and by providing the location he used for some of his visits.

According to Buzbee, the Texans settled with 30 women in July who had accused Deshaun Watson of wrongdoing and had “made, or intended to make, claims against the Houston Texans organization.” The names and specifics of the six women who settled with the Texans but did not file a lawsuit against Deshaun Watson are unknown.

The Texans’ owners, the McNair family, stated in a statement, “Although our organization did not have any knowledge of Deshaun Watson’s alleged misbehavior, we have purposefully opted to address this situation peacefully.” This is a definite statement against all forms of sexual misconduct and assault, not an admission of any guilt.

Will Watson be charged with a crime?

After receiving a complaint against Deshaun Watson, the Houston Police Department opened an investigation. A Harris County grand jury failed to file any of nine criminal allegations against him in March.

According to Johna Stallings, division chief of the adult sex crimes and human trafficking branch at the Harris County district attorney’s office, “We respect the grand jury’s judgement.” “We will bring the criminal case to a close in Harris County.”

A second grand jury in Texas’s Brazoria County declined to indict Deshaun Watson on allegations of sexual misconduct during a massage treatment session two weeks later. It was his most recent felony prosecution.

Deshaun Watson

How has Watson responded?

In response to the Harris County ruling, Deshaun Watson stated that the goal of his legal team was to “have a fair slate of us expressing our side of the story, and having the conclusion come down to what happened today, and that’s what the grand jury ruled on.”

On Twitter, he claimed that he had “never treated any woman with anything less than the utmost respect” and that, prior to the initial lawsuit, Buzbee had made “a false six-figure settlement demand” that he had rejected.

Deshaun Watson’s attorney, Hardin, contested the validity of all charges and labelled one of the sexual assault allegations as a blackmail effort. He also called the accusations against his client “meritless.”

Hardin emphasized first-person testimonies of more than a dozen massage therapists who indicated they had worked with Deshaun Watson over the past five years without encountering any of the behavior detailed by the case plaintiffs in another statement released in March of last year.

Hardin admitted that Deshaun Watson engaged in sexual activity with three of the ladies, but claimed that all of it was consensual and happened after the massages.

Hardin stated in April of last year, “Never at any time, under any circumstances, did this young man engage in something that was not mutually desired.

Buzbee denied that argument.

In his statement, Mr. Watson stated, “Mr. Watson may now claim he had consent to do what he did to these victims, but let’s be clear – in their eyes he didn’t have consent, PERIOD.”

The Times was informed by a woman who chose not to sue Deshaun Watson that he initiated sex with her at each of their three massage visits.

Deshaun Watson responded that he wanted to “clean my name and be able to allow the facts and the legal procedures continue to play out” when asked if he was open to settling the civil cases during a news conference at Browns minicamp in June. He reiterated that he had “never pushed” anyone into having sex.

Where are the incidents said to have taken place?

The majority of the instances are allegedly to have happened in Texas, but two are allegedly to have happened in Deshaun Watson’s native Georgia, as well as California and Arizona, while he was visiting those states. Given that Deshaun Watson lives and works in Harris County, Texas, all of the lawsuits were submitted there.

Will the N.F.L. take any action?

Deshaun Watson’s suspension would start with the Browns’ first regular-season game against the Carolina Panthers on September 11 and he would be allowed to return for the Browns’ seventh game against the Baltimore Ravens on October 23 if Robinson’s decision is upheld.

During training camp, he can continue working out with the Browns.

The Browns designed Deshaun Watson’s contract in light of their expectation that he will miss at least a portion of the 2022 season by allocating the majority of his $46 million salary for that year to a signing bonus. Only a fraction of his around $1 million yearly base salary will be lost.

In March 2021, the league started looking into Deshaun Watson’s actions. Lisa Friel, the league’s special counsel for investigations, wrote to Buzbee and pleaded for the accusers’ assistance. According to a league spokeswoman, the situation is being looked into in light of the N.F.L.’s personal conduct rules. This guideline controls how players and coaches conduct themselves off the field.

Deshaun Watson was interviewed by League investigators for four days, according to Hardin, which is often one of the last phases in the investigation. The settlements, according to N.F.L. spokesman Brian McCarthy, “had no impact on the collectively negotiated disciplinary procedure.”

Deshaun Watson, according to Hardin, cooperated with all inquiries.

How have Watson’s sponsors responded?

In April of last year, the day after two of the accusers made their accusations public, Nike terminated its deal with Watson.

“We have suspended Deshaun Watson due to the distressing claims, which gravely concern us. We’ll keep a careful eye on the situation, the business said in a statement.

He was allowed to let many of his other sponsorships expire, including ones with Rolex and companies in Texas.

Who is Tony Buzbee?

Tony Buzbee is a plaintiffs’ attorney in Houston who has years of experience with personal injury cases, but he is arguably best recognised for his work on mass tort and class action matters, such as the litigation following Hurricane Ike and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a decade ago. He doesn’t seem to have handled many instances involving sexual assault on women.

Buzbee, a former soldier, brags about his enormous personality and fortune online. Buzbee’s law firm’s website’s first two words are “Just Win,” and he has a shark tattoo on his right forearm.

Additionally unsuccessful in 2019, Buzbee ran for mayor of Houston.

Who is Rusty Hardin?

Hardin, a former state prosecutor for Texas who switched to defense work, has defended a number of well-known clients, including professional athletes and Arthur Andersen in the Enron affair. During the Clinton administration’s Whitewater probe, he also contributed to the independent counsel’s office.

He has defended a number of athletes, including football running back Adrian Peterson, who was charged with felony child abuse in 2014, baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, who was accused of lying under oath, and NBA guard James Harden, who was charged in 2017 with paying four people to rob and assault Moses Malone Jr., the son of Hall of Fame NBA player.

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