On Thursday afternoon, we had our latest court proceedings in the ongoing saga of Deshaun Watson facing off with 22 civil lawsuit plaintiffs, all females with various job titles and certifications within the massage therapy industry. While, on paper, there was "nothing of substance" really occurring (Rusty Hardin's exact words, more on that in a minute), this was a pretty significant day, for a few reasons.
Let's do a quick synopsis of what happened on Thursday in the 113th State District Court:
First, this was the first time the two super-attorneys have been together, in person, since the lawsuits were filed
The last time there was a hearing, Hardin showed up in person, and Buzbee showed up on Zoom, much to the surprise of Hardin. This time around, both attorneys were there in person, and for a hearing where "nothing of substance" occurred (again, Hardin's words), there was enough feistiness between the two attorneys, over relatively trivial matters, that it made you wonder what an actual trial might look like. Whoa mama!
Also, Buzbee brought along some guests
In addition to Buzbee and Hardin sharing a courtroom for the first time in this ongoing saga, Buzbee brought along a half dozen of the plaintiffs in person, including Ashley Solis ("Jane Doe" Number 1), and several more joined over Zoom. These women wanted to show their faces in the courtroom as a show of defiance against Hardin's (and in effect, Watson's) contention that all of the 22 plaintiffs are lying about the nature of their encounters with Watson.
Tony Buzbee and Rusty Hardin took turns today accusing the others’ clients of scrubbing their social media accounts. This is Buzbee being peppered with questions as his team gets in an elevator at the Harris County Civil Courthouse in downtown Houston. pic.twitter.com/LS7QwP4lbZ— Brandon Kyle Scott (@brandonkscott) April 22, 2021
So what exactly was the main issue on Thursday?
The ability of the defense to nail down the identities of the 22 plaintiffs has apparently still been an issue. The NAMES have all been disclosed in refillings of all 22 suits. However, there are still four women whose names are common enough that it's tough to discern exactly WHO they are. Therefore, Hardin was asking for a hearing next week in which Buzbee gives the defense social security and driver's license information for the plaintiffs, so they can credibly nail down who they all are. Buzbee protested vehemently against providing that information, and ultimately Judge Collier set a deadline of two weeks from yesterday for both sides to figure out a solution to the problem. For his part, Hardin expressed great frustration over the glacial pace at which Buzbee's team has moved in identifying the plaintiffs so that the defense can put forth their responses and formulate a strategy to defend Watson. Hardin says as much toward the end of this video:
Rusty Hardin says not a lot of substance happened in court today and he denies Buzbee’s suggestion Watson could be destroying evidence. pic.twitter.com/TbI5T3j4DL— Brandon Kyle Scott (@brandonkscott) April 22, 2021
All of this resulted in one very eye opening football realization
The odds of a trade involving Deshaun Watson have been falling off a cliff for the last month, so ultimately when next Thursday rolls around, the NFL Draft begins, and at the end of the night Watson is still a Texan, I won't be surprised. However, the setting of May 7 as the deadline for resolution on accuser identity issues is an actual date-driven, sobering reminder that this thing is set to drag on beyond April 29, and probably into the summer months in some fashion. A Watson trade that can help the Texans in 2021 is on life support, and the slow pace that this legal battle is moving is essentially the pulling of the plug. A week from today, if Watson is still a Texan, the franchise's efforts to rebuild are officially delayed by a full year.
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