CLEVELAND, Ohio — The lawyer for Deshaun Watson’s accusers, Tony Buzbee, issued a statement Monday stating that two of the 22 plaintiffs in his civil suits against Watson were interviewed by HBO for its special airing Tuesday night on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and that he believes “the walls are closing in” on Watson.
Watson’s lawyer Rusty Hardin, told cleveland.com Monday that Watson declined HBO’s request to be interviewed for the piece because of the pending NFL investigation. One of Watson’s lawyers, Leah Graham, spent about 8 minutes talking to HBO on Monday morning, and his team “sent mountains of material to review,” Hardin said.
In Buzbee’s statement provided to cleveland.com, he remains confident his clients will prevail.
“HBO approach us and asked us if our clients would be willing to speak on the record for the Real Sports program,” Tony Buzbee’s statement provided to cleveland.com reads.
“As was the case with speaking with law enforcement and the NFL, we left the decision whether to speak publicly up to the clients themselves. Two chose to do so. These women are the most brave and courageous I’ve ever met. This firm is extremely proud to represent them. During the filming process I was impressed with HBO’s diligence and insistence on fairness. Despite our requests, HBO refused to provide us before-hand the questions they intended to ask.
“And, I can tell you, hard questions were in fact asked — not only to our clients but to me as well. This firm has been trying and winning civil cases for twenty-five years; we are extremely confident in these cases. As each witness tests in the pre-trial discovery process, the evidence against Deshaun Watson continues to mount. The walls, as they say, are closing in. We look forward to trying these cases in court as soon as practicable. We are very confident that, in the end, justice will be done.”
According to HBO’s press release, “several accusers,” conducting their first-ever national interviews, spoke with Soledad O’Brien about the alleged sexual misconduct they say they experienced, as well as Watson’s new NFL-record fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the browns
On Friday, Hardin told cleveland.com he didn’t expect the segment to be fair to Watson, who’s been accused of sexual misconduct by 24 massage therapists, 22 of whom have civil suits pending. Watson has maintained his innocence, and has no current plans to settle the suits so he can clear his name.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like, but I’m not optimistic,” Hardin told cleveland.com. “I believe they’ll air the accusations of the women without attempting to look behind it to see what kind of merit do they have.”
Hardin has stated the women are lying and that some admitted to consensual encounters with Watson.
In his introductory press conference on March 25 at Browns headquarters in Berea, Ohio, Watson denied the case.
“I definitely I understand the whole circumstances can be very difficult, especially for the women’s side of the fans in this community,” Watson said. “I’m not naive to that. I know these is very, very serious. But like I mentioned before, I’ve never assaulted any woman. I never disrespected any woman. I was raised by a single-parent mom who has two Aunties, who’s a sister, and that’s who raised me.
“I was raised to be genuine and to respect everyone and everything around me. So I’ve always defended that and I will continue to stand on that. And I just want the opportunity to be able to show who I really am community, and be hands on and help people and serve other people.”
HBO declined to tell cleveland.com which of the accusers will appear on the show or provide other details.
O’Brien, responding to a Twitter post announcing the episode, replied “It’s a very good story. Hope you’ll watch.”
Hardin said such interviews were anticipated as the civil suits play out, and understands they won’t help Watson’s case.
“My approach all along was that we were not going to win the battle of public opinion,” Hardin said. “And my goal has always been to have these cases examined by law enforcement and I strongly believed that trained investigators would ultimately conclude that there was nothing to them from a criminal standpoint and that’s where my focus has always been.
“I thought that’s what the NFL teams cared most about and with the exception of Miami that’s true.”
He said once the criminal element was dismissed, “the ball would move to the NFL, and that’s where we are.”
Hardin said “no settlement talks are in the offing” regarding the civil suits and that Watson and his team are awaiting the NFL’s decision. Watson also continues to cooperate fully in the civil proceedings, and will provide two depositions a day from June 21-23.
Hardin said he hopes that 324-game suspension by Baseball of former Indians and current Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer League for of domestic violence and assault will not impact the NFLs discipline of sexual’ Watson. Bauer who also has not been, denies, the criminally charged and is appealing.
“I’m going to try to be an optimist and say it will have no effect at all,” Hardin said. “Because it has no logical connection.”
Hardin added that “we fully cooperated for those three days, we intend to cooperate if they want to talk some more, and then we intend to continue to insist to the NFL and to everybody else that he didn’t violate the code of conduct. ”
Once Friel and Gaffney wrap up their investigation, they’ll turn their findings over to former US District Judge Sue L. Robinson, who will determine whether or not to discipline Watson.
Sanctions can include a fixed or indefinite suspension, a fine, or a combination of the two, or banishment from the NFL with an opportunity to reapply. Discipline may also include a probationary period with conditions that must be met for reinstatement or continued participation.
If Watson appeals the decision, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee can overturn or modify the discipline as they see fit, and their ruling will be final. If Watson is suspended for all or part of the 2022 season, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett will start in his place.
The Browns have arguably the easiest first four games of any team in the NFL — at Carolina, at home against the Jets and Steelers and at the Falcons — but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told cleveland.com last week that Watson’s possible suspension had no bearing on the schedule.
Watson arrived back in Cleveland on Sunday night after treating almost 30 of his teammates to an all-expenses paid trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas for on-field work and team bonding. He will begin Organized Team Activities Tuesday at the Browns facility. It consists of 10 non-contact practices over three weeks, followed by the mandatory minicamp June 14-16.
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