Cleveland Browns star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who faces a potentially significant punishment from the NFL under his personal conduct policy, is scheduled for a disciplinary hearing before the jointly appointed disciplinary officer sue l Robinson that begins Tuesday, according to league sources.
A potential one-year suspension looming
Watson, represented by Houston attorney Rusty Hardin and NFL Players Association outside counsel Jeffrey L. Kessler and investigated by NFL Senior Vice President and Special Counsel for Investigations Lisa Friel, formerly of Manhattan, NY. The chief prosecutor for sex crimes faces a possible one-year, if not indefinite, suspension, according to the sources.
Robinson, a former Delaware district judge who is now a practicing attorney, is expected to issue a ruling before training camp. A source predicted that the ruling could come as soon as a week after the hearing is completed. This is Robinson’s first hearing related to NFL discipline and the first case to be heard under a revised personal conduct policy under the new collective bargaining agreement negotiated two years ago.
The NFL and the players’ union have previously tried to reach a compromise on a proposed punishment deal for Watson, a former Clemson first-round draft pick who missed last season and received his full $10.54 million salaries after requesting a trade from the Houston Texans. but the sources emphasized that they were never close to a deal. The league’s reasoning behind a possible indefinite suspension, such as the one imposed by the NFL in Michael Vick’s dogfighting scandal or Ray Rice’s domestic violence case, would be to give them the flexibility to potentially impose more disciplinary action should other allegations of misconduct arise. Although there is no DNA, audio, or video evidence in the cases, according to multiple sources, the NFL will use text messages, statements, and interviews to present its argument.
Under NFL rules governing personal conduct policy matters, Watson has the right to appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The appeal may also be heard by another designated official.
Watson’s legal team will argue that he should receive little or no sanctions under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement based on the light sanction previously imposed against NFL owners Robert Kraft, Daniel Snyder, and Jerry Jones for allegations of sexual misconduct. Watson reached a confidential settlement in 20 of 24 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, sexual assault, or other inappropriate behavior with female masseuses.
When the settlement was reached, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to Pro Football Network that the settlement would not affect the league’s ongoing investigation, writing, “Today’s development has no impact on the collectively negotiated disciplinary process.”
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Tony Buzbee, has previously stated that he plans to include the Houston Texans, Watson’s former employer in the NFL, in a lawsuit alleging they allowed the three-time Pro Bowl team’s behavior by providing him with a membership to the Houston hotel and spa and giving him confidentiality. agreement for sellers. The Texans have previously stated that they had no knowledge of Watson’s alleged misconduct. Buzbee has also said he plans to file additional lawsuits.
Watson was not indicted by two Texas grand juries. He has maintained his innocence throughout the legal process.
“I’ve been honest and candid about my stance and that’s that I never forced anyone, I never assaulted anyone,” Watson said during a recent minicamp news conference. “So, that’s what I’ve been saying from the beginning and I’m going to keep doing it until all the facts come to light on the legal side. I have to continue the process with my legal team and the court of law.”
Deshaun Watson settled 20 of 24 sexual misconduct lawsuits
There are still four active lawsuits, including Ashley Solis, the first woman to accuse Watson of misconduct, after Watson’s lawyer announced that 20 of the cases were settled earlier this week.
“Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have been resolved,” Buzbee said in a statement on June 24. “We are working on the paperwork related to those agreements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the agreements are confidential. We will not comment further on the settlements or those cases.”
Buzbee intends to continue advocating for Solis and other plaintiffs.
“The cases against Deshaun Watson began with a phone call from a brave and strong woman,” Buzbee said. “That woman was Ashley Solis. At the time of that call, she was just one of the hundreds of calls seeking legal assistance our firm receives weekly. Although originally our selection process rejected her, my staff insisted that I speak to her personally. I’m glad she persisted. Once we took a second look, and after having contact with Watson’s original lawyer who disrespected Ashley and her profession and arrogantly downplayed the conduct of someone she referred to as an ‘asset’, she was convinced that our law firm should try to help her. .
“As a result of Ashley’s lonely but courageous voice, soon many women who had supposedly experienced the same behavior were encouraged to step forward. I’m incredibly proud to represent them all. They have endured vile criticism and fanatical ignorance. They faced a withering cross-examination from expert litigants and stood firm. They are all warriors.
“Today we have an important announcement about these cases, but it is important to note that, without Ashley Solis, the conduct experienced by these women would likely have continued unhindered. The truth is, without their courage and willingness to step up, the NFL would not currently be contemplating discipline; there would be no examination of how teams might knowingly or unknowingly allow certain behavior; sports teams would not be reviewing their personnel selection processes, and this important story would not have dominated sports headlines for more than a year.”
Watson: ‘I never assaulted anyone’
During the Browns’ minicamp, Watson spoke to reporters for the first time since his introductory press conference.
“As I said, I never assaulted anyone,” Watson said. “I never harassed anyone or disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything. I have been honest and have been sincere about my stance. I never forced anyone. I never assaulted anyone.
“That’s what I’ve been saying from the beginning, and I’m going to continue to do so until all the facts come to light. On the legal side, I have to follow the process of my legal team and the court of law.”
Watson has met several times in Houston with Friel.
“I met with the NFL a couple of weeks ago and did everything they asked me to do,” Watson said. “I answered honestly all the questions the NFL asked me, I spent hours with the people they knocked down, and that’s all I can do, be honest and tell them exactly what happened. I know they have a job and I have to respect that, so that’s exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to cooperate and they have to make the best decision for the league.”
Lawyer: Not ‘surprising’ settlement
Daniel Moskowitz, a criminal and civil attorney with an extensive history of representing players in the NFL’s personal conduct policy and other matters governed by the collective bargaining agreement said the settlements in this high-profile legal matter come as no surprise.
“The deal shouldn’t seem surprising,” Moskowitz said. “Obviously, the claims and allegations are of the utmost seriousness. However, as is often the case in litigation, regardless of the validity of the claims alleged or a party’s pursuit of justice, an agreement is reached due to certain optics and initially seemingly secondary factors that come to the fore and facilitate an agreement. Here, despite Deshaun’s stated desire to clear his name, the prospect of a protracted and seemingly endless legal dispute clearly came into play for Deshaun’s camp. The number of plaintiffs alone created logistical problems for the parties, creating a reality of years, not months before this matter had gone to trial. Tony Buzbee has the resources to go all the way. The prospect of protracted litigation did not worry Buzbee. At some point, the resolve and personal desire of the parties to move forward means more than ‘winning’.
“While many have commented that Deshaun and his camp should prepare for punitive punishment from the NFL, one issue to consider/remember is the impact the #MeToo move could have on all aspects of this matter. To be clear, this is not an attack on the merits and mission statement of #MeToo, but to believe that #MeToo would not affect the outcome of this matter is arguably naïve. This case is a textbook example of what the foundation/existence of #MeToo required: to ensure justice for alleged victims of sexual harassment.
Yes, the truth matters, but given the recent “backlash #MeToo,” in particular, the defamation trial of Johnny Depp, one can anticipate that the movement’s leaders will focus their efforts on this issue.”