The official number of lawsuits pending against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will indeed increase to 26.
Attorney Tony Buzbee tells Josh Voight of WEWS in Cleveland that two more women will be suing Watson.
Buzbee said that one of the plaintiffs came to him via a referral from a lawyer in Atlanta. The other plaintiff saw last month’s feature regarding the allegations on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
So how many more will there be? Last week, Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times reported that Watson got massages from at least 66 women in a 17-month period. The 24th lawsuit against Watson, filed last week, contends that Watson received more than 100 massages from “random strangers” he found on Instagram.
Seems to me we can’t answer that question just yet. Not until we know what the total number of women who could plausibly sue him is. And that number, no one (except maybe Watson himself) has any idea what it is.
Speaking of which, Watson could certainly do more to make this all stop, if he wanted to.
“I just want to clear my name,” Watson said, explaining that he wants to let the facts come out in a court of law. This means that, for now, he intends to keep fighting these cases. All of them. The 24 already filed. The two more to come. And any others that may eventually be filed.
The process will take time. None of the cases will go to trial until after March 1, 2023. And, without settlements, 26 trials will take a lot of time. The cases likely will linger into 2024. Depending on the final number of cases filed, the trials might not end until 2025.
Watson also was asked about the contention (not a report, but a contention) from one of the lawsuits that he offered $100,000 to each of the plaintiffs last year.
“There was a process that was going on back in November with another organization,” Watson said, without specifically addressing whether settlement offers were made to resolve the cases so that he could be traded to Miami. However, his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, already has said publicly that the Dolphins wanted the cases to be resolved before a trade would happen, and that an effort was made to do so.
Watson was asked whether he stands by his statement from March that he has “no regrets” about what happened.
“I think that question kind of triggered a lot of people,” Watson said, explaining that he was saying he never assaulted, disrespected, or harassed anyone. He acknowledged that he does regret the impact of the existence of the various cases has had on “many” people.
And what of the report from the New York Times that Watson received massages from at least 66 women in a 17-month period? Is that number accurate?
“I don’t think so,” Watson said, before deferring to his lawyers.
I don’t know what happened between Deshaun Watson and all these women. I do know that it’s impossible to believe that nothing untoward happened.
At some point, the NFL needs to decide what it believes.
Last month, Deshaun Watson‘s lawyer said they expect to hear something from the NFL in June. As of tomorrow, June is already halfway over. And there’s no indication that the league is ready to do anything.
Then again, there rarely is any such indication of what the league will do, until the league does it. If the league will be trying to suspend Watson without pay to start the 2022 season, time is of the essence.
Remember, it’s a three-step process. First, the league office proposes discipline. Second, the Disciplinary Office (retired judge Sue L. Robinson) evaluates the case, conducts a hearing (if she deems it necessary), and makes a decision. Third, unless Judge Robinson decides to impose no discipline at all (which would end the process), the Commissioner handles the appeal. His decision is final.
It will take time for the second and third steps. At the latest, it needs to be resolved before Week One. Ideally, the Browns will have an answer before the start of training camp. (Then again, the Browns can’t complain about the current uncertainty; they made this bed.)
With two more lawsuits to be filed, pushing the total to 26, and with no indication as to what the final tally will be, it’s making more and more sense for the NFL to press pause on Watson’s career via paid leave, letting him focus on putting these 26 cases (and counting) behind him for good.
That is a thing the league could do. I’m sure the league would like to see these stories end.
I will say again: The longer this goes on, the worse it looks.
A Houston police detective testified this week that she believed Deshaun Watson committed crimes after investigating 10 criminal complaints against him, according to a pretrial deposition transcript obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
The detective, Kamesha Baker, said she expressed her opinion to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. But she wasn’t called to testify before the grand jury in Harris County, Texas, and doesn’t know why the grand jury didn’t indict the Cleveland Browns quarterback on criminal charges. She said she believed Watson committed criminal indecent assault, sexual assault and prostitution in cases where money was exchanged and there was consensual sex.
“Did you feel confident that you had the evidence needed to pursue those charges?” Baker was asked in the deposition.
“Yes,” Baker said.
“And was there any doubt in your mind as the investigating officer that a crime had occurred?”
“No,” Baker said.
Baker testified in a pretrial deposition for the civil litigation against Watson in Houston, where he has been sued by 24 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions in 2020 and early 2021. Eight of those women also filed complaints with Houston police about Watson’s conduct, in addition to two other women who filed police complaints who have not sued Watson in civil court.
That one of the detectives involved believed this is perhaps not surprising. It doesn’t mean it’s true. The point is, there is still a lot we the public don’t know about these cases. And like I said, the more we find out, the worse it all looks. Sean Pendergast has more.