Sports

Deshaun Watson Legal Drama, Week 5 (April 12-16) Preview

Rusty Hardin finally fired back verbally at plaintiffs' attorney Tony Buzbee at Friday's news conference.
Rusty Hardin finally fired back verbally at plaintiffs' attorney Tony Buzbee at Friday's news conference. Screen grab from YouTube
If the Deshaun Watson soap opera over the last couple months has taught us anything, it's this — whatever we think the maximum drama could be for the upcoming week, there will probably be significantly more than we had predicted. Hell, even going back to the end of the regular season. The following week, all we expected was the announcement of a new general manager. Instead, by that Friday, Watson had reportedly demanded a trade!

During the legal portion of our own version of an HBO series, we've gone into some weeks with a trickle of new lawsuits, and wound up by week's end with significantly more lawsuits and some associated criminal complaints. We've had articles in Sports Illustrated, we've had press conferences with victims giving teary statements, we've had social media salvos. Hell, who thought at the beginning of last week that Deshaun's week would end with Nike and Apple both either suspending or severing their ties to the Texans' quarterback.

So, I feel maybe a necessary service I can provide on a Monday morning would be to just level-set where we are with the litigation against Watson, and where we might go this week, and the varying degrees of probability that come with those forks in the road. So, to start, here is where we are:

What we KNOW
Right now, here are the stats surrounding this entire scenario — Tony Buzbee's firm has filed 22 civil lawsuits against Watson. We know who two of the plaintiffs are by name (Ashley Solis is the "Jane Doe" in Lawsuit Number 1, and Lauren Baxley is the "Jane Doe" in Lawsuit Number 6), but because of a ruling by two separate judges on Friday, we will learn the identity of a total of 12 more. (There were 13 in total that must disclose their full names, by judge's ruling, but one of those was Solis, who's already done so.) This was a big win for Watson's camp, as Hardin has pointed out that the prior anonymity of the plaintiffs has made defending Watson difficult, at best.


Two of the plaintiffs, that we know of, including Solis, have filed criminal complaints against Watson, and another (believed to be "Jane Doe" Number 3) had made an attempt, according to an affidavit signed by Watson's marketing manager, Brian Burney, to blackmail Watson over what both sides (according to Burney's affidavit) deemed was a consensual sexual encounter. Hardin acknowledged consensual sexual activity involving Watson in his press conference last Friday. It remains to be seen how many of the plaintiffs will require the "consensual activity" defense from Hardin on behalf of Watson.

For what it's worth, here was Buzbee's latest public statement on Friday's developments, as dropped on his Instagram page Friday night:

Where we GO from here
Now, as far as where we could see this go in the next five days, here are the possibilities, by category of "likely reaction by the masses":

A casual, affirmative nod of the head
This would be the reaction to the "most likely" scenarios playing out, which as we've pointed out, has been the exception rather than the rule during the last month. Given the fact that Buzbee did not raise any more lawsuits being filed in his Friday post, something he HAS done on previous Friday news dumps, it could be that things have stabilized in the "number of accusers" department. That combined with the major chess move victory for Hardin in learning accuser identities may mean that we are heading toward a settlement of some sort, even though both attorneys have done everything they can to indicate they are willing, even anxious, to settle this in a trial. That may be posturing. In other words, for the first time since the first lawsuit was filed, it feels like this may be a slow week for Watson news (which means, for sure, I just jinxed things).


A hearty "Wow, I thought that MIGHT happen, but...."
Okay, one quantitative thing to come out of Friday's emergency hearings on accuser identities being revealed is that Buzbee has five days to refile the lawsuits with actual names replacing "Jane Doe." So one development that would certainly get a reaction would be Buzbee having some noticeable degree of plaintiff attrition. In other words, might some of the women suing Watson rather eject from the proceedings than have their names go public? That would certainly seem to be a silent goal of Hardin and Watson in seeking the names to go full-on public IN THE LAWSUITS. Also, as a ripple effect, if several of the plaintiffs opted for disengaging from the litigation, would there be enough momentum created by Hardin's small wins over the last few days to get NFL teams to, once again, start inquiring with Texans GM Nick Caserio about Watson? If indeed, they ever stopped. With under three weeks to the draft, this would be major news.

"Holy S%$&!" and then Twitter melts
I think the closest thing we saw recently to this reaction was Nike's announcement of suspending Watson this past week, so I don't know that anymore sponsor attrition for Watson reaches this reaction temperature grade. I think if we somehow got any news on the police department and the district attorney seeing merit in a criminal prosecution of Watson, that would obviously be HUGE news, as would a mass filing of more criminal complaints. The NFL placing Watson on the Commissioner's Exempt list, which is sort of a figurative holding tank for players who are on a path to suspension, would be a major moment, too, considering they usually wait for the regular season to do so. In short, if there's a "HOLY S%@#!" moment, it probably won't mean good news for Deshaun Watson.

As always, and I don't just say this colloquially, BY ALL MEANS, stay tuned.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast