Deshaun Watson needs to settle these cases, now

NFL: DEC 13 Texans at Bears
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In the week since Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson disclosed that he was facing a lawsuit that he refused to settle, I’ve been asked several times over the past few days how I would represent and/or advise Watson. I’ve thought about it a lot, reflecting on cases that I handled during a 18-year legal career before making this my full-time job in 2009.

Before representing Watson, I’d want him to pass a polygraph test, so that I could put my full effort and attention behind a cause that I believed to be right and just and proper. I wouldn’t want to attach my name and reputation to someone I didn’t fully believe. Based on the number of plaintiffs currently accusing Watson of misconduct, I would only fully believe Watson if he passed a polygraph test.

The advice I’d give him has nothing to do with his potential guilt or innocence. Regardless of whether he’s guilty or innocent or some of both, he should settle all pending and threatened cases, now.

He should instruct his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, to arrange a mass mediation session with attorney Tony Buzbee. They should hire a retired judge with the presence and demeanor to make all parties feel like their voices have been heard, and that their day in court has been realized. The retired judge would serve as a mediator, negotiating an agreement between Watson and each and every accuser for a dollar figure and other terms that would fully resolve the cases. Watson, for example, would seek a full commitment to confidentiality, which would prevent the plaintiffs from cooperating with the NFL’s investigation under the Personal Conduct Policy.

It may be too late for Watson to avoid an NFL suspension, however. The sheer volume of claims coupled with a fairly quick settlement could prompt the league to exercise its right to grill Watson about the cases and to conclude that, even though he admitted to no specific wrongdoing, he put himself in the kind of position that justifies punishment. That was the gist, for example, of the suspension imposed by the NFL on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2010.

Even if Watson still receives a suspension, it’s better than the alternative, which includes the reality of very expensive legal fees, the prospect of multiple verdicts against him, placement on paid leave by the league followed by a lengthy suspension, and potential incarceration.

Indeed, looming over the entire situation is the possibility that criminal charges will be filed. If Watson testifies in the civil lawsuits and invokes his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, he’ll lose every one of them. If he testifies in the civil lawsuits and if it goes poorly, he’ll provide the prosecutor with a potential roadmap for criminal charges.

Thus, as distasteful as it may be to him to settle these claims, he needs to realize that it’s the only way out of this problem that entails a minimal legal fees, minimal disruption to his football career, minimal payouts to the plaintiffs (in comparison to the potential verdicts), and minimal chance of a conviction.

The plaintiffs, of course, wouldn’t be required to settle. For some, it may not be about the money. They may crave their chance to obtain justice in a court of law. If so, that’s their absolute right. If so, that will become obvious through the mediation process.

Regardless, the best move at this point would be to have a mediation session aimed at trying to resolve as many of these claims as possible and, from Watson’s perspective, ideally all of them.

This is the advice that I’d give Watson if he were my client, son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend, colleague, etc. Hopefully, someone in a position to influence Watson feels the same way, and will convince him to proceed with a strategy that involves trying to rectify these claims now, before irreversible damage is done to his career, his financial standing, and his image and reputation.

58 responses to “Deshaun Watson needs to settle these cases, now

  1. You can pay to make it go away but the stain of guilt never goes away. Just look at Robert Kraft.

  2. He’s finished. A serial sexual abuser is just that.

    24 women

    Good luck to Rusty Hardin and Watson’s checkbook. That’s a lot of women who would quietly just take the money.

  3. If I didn’t do it, I’m not settling ish and going to counter sue and have them pay my fee’s and tack on some more for smearing my rep.

  4. A polygraph? Why? They are not even close to accurate.

    They aren’t even allowed as evidence in court unless I am mistaken, due to the very reason I just mentioned.

  5. It’s a noble stance to say you’d demand a polygraph before representing him, but the problem is that they are notoriously unreliable (which is why they are inadmissible in court).

    Based on Watson’s and his lawyers comments, he genuinely believes that he seduced these women, as if using massages as bait to get a woman near your naked body, then touching her with your genitals is considered an appropriate seduction tactic. If there’s anything truth to the quotes in the court filings, he comes off like a total sociopath.

    Point being – This guy genuinely believes these acts were consensual.

  6. Watson’s attorney basically confirmed that he had a sexual relationship with the one accuser that allegedly blackmailed him, calling it a consensual relationship.

    Watson’s attorney’s statement today also never once denied that he booked over 20 different masseuses in the past year. And those are just the accusers.

    What athlete seeks out this many different female therapists unless he had bad intentions? This is ugly any way you slice it.

  7. I agree with Florio. It seems like the cleanest way out of this mess for Watson. But, I doubt this gets done clean and Watson is in for a world of trouble. By the time this is all over with he’ll be lucky to stay out of prison because the cops are going to get involved eventually.

  8. I’m afraid the damage done is just about irreversible. What a terrible fall from grace.

  9. Watson will eventually get back on a football field. When he does, it’s safe to say that no one will ever look at him the same way again.
    He needs to start planning right now to devote the rest of his life to charity so that this isn’t the 1st thing they think of when they hear his name. He also needs to play at a HOF level. That will help.

  10. This shows the incompetence of the Texans. They should have traded him earlier when his value was higher and gotten a lot of draft capital. They could have moved on and let the next team deal with this problem

  11. I understand the logic behind what you’re saying. But if he were to settle with all of these women (guilty or not), don’t you think it wouldn’t be very long before a bunch more suddenly “remember” he assaulted them as well and they come looking for a check?

  12. If Watson/Rusty Hardin believe paying off all of these women is the best solution, what would the ramifications be for his NFL future? That would mean he paid 14 women, not just to settle the cases, but to prevent them from speaking to authorities or to the NFL. Whether he has done anything wrong or not, that would make it look like he has. Zeke got 6 games, wouldn’t that cost Watson the year? I don’t know the length, but it seems like it would have to be something longer than that.

  13. “Regardless of whether he’s guilty or innocent or some of both, he should settle all pending and threatened cases, now.”
    I understand this line of thinking, but if he is innocent I’d rather him fight it out. Don’t want to see a parade of Instagram posting lawyers tossing together lawsuits like this, thinking they will get the easy money because it is the “smart” move for the defendant.

  14. My goodness I agree with this strategy one hundred percent. I also agree with Mike that it is more than likely too late. Public opinion is on full display & rightfully so in this case. I cannot imagine what Watson is thinking right now, eventually he realized this behavior caught up to him and i bet he was terrified.

  15. Wondering now if the real reason Watson really wanted to leave is because he knew this storm was coming versus anything the Houston Texans did.

  16. There will be a criminal case filed before too long. I don’t think he’s going to be able to pay them to make this go away. Plus the NFL can’t ignore this at this point. They’ll have to see if there is anything to the charges.

  17. If he is innocent he needs to counter sue the plaintiffs and even Buzbee for defamation of character and future earnings. Tab each person for $1M each and see how many drop the law suit. If he is innocent it is total b.s. that he has had to sustain this. If he’s guilty he deserves to pay. I don’t like these things being played out in the court of public opinion since it ruins the objectivity of a jury.

  18. While I rarely (ok almost never agree) with Florio in this case he is giving his client the best advice he can based on the LEGAL situation and nothing else.

    Settling, even for an innocent party (and I have seen it happen) is often the least painful and least expensive way to get beyond the situation and move on.

    In fact lawyers like Buzbee (and I’m sure Hardin) use the lure of settling constantly, in many cases they DON’T want to go to trial. But what Watson has at risk here is a very hefty NFL contract, the ability to make money in the future off of his football career, to say nothing of what Harden is going to charge if this goes all the way.

    Sadly in settled cases it is often the lawyers who come out ahead and no one else.

  19. Watson es finito.

    24 accusers? Can’t ignore that. He’s probably done. Bet the Texans wish they’d let him go sooner.

  20. This is why I’m glad the attorney went so big and so public with this right out of the gate. Because big money makes too many things go away before we’re even aware they ever happened. It will be very hard for that to happen this time.

  21. Could you imagine trading for this guy just to have to resign as GM immediately after doing it?

  22. I like first posters comment – “the stain never goes away.” Problem is the public already condemned him so it ain’t going away anyway.

    But I agree Florio – settling is his best course of action (but I come from the corporate world where that is done daily). Problem is if he is tainted with zero evidence (which none has been presented to date) today imagine how bad it gets with the bloodthirsty public already rooting for it to be true?

  23. I think a polygraph test is a great idea. I think there should be a law that if you accuse someone of sexual misconduct, rather than go through all the he said, she said stuff, and then end up having a guilty man go free, or an innocent man go to jail, the woman should have to take a polygraph test before proceeding. I mean, if polygraph tests are accurate, wouldn’t this be the place to start? The women could remain anonymous. I don’t like the idea of an innocent person settling, or a guilty person getting off with a settlement. Someone is either right or wrong. If the courts can’t prove anything, why extort money from someone?

  24. i had a polygraph for a job many years a go. although i’m sure the machines are improved the principles are the same. before you take the test you are asked a bunch of questions. then you are asked when on the machine if you answered each question truthfully-yes or no. thats all the machine and the examiner look at -yes or no answers. It may not be something for court but it would satisfy me one way or another.

    However most lawyers don;t really want to know. Just defend their client-which they should.

  25. So…if your client says he’s innocent you would recommend that he settle innocent or not? No way! If I know I’m innocent I’d rather go down fighting! What does that deal set him up for if innocent? Another group looking for a payday a few months later? Not to mention the target placed on the backs of every other professional athlete by someone looking for easy money.

  26. I’m sure Buzbee has a number in mind his clients would settle for, prob in the $100,000,000 range.
    He gets half

  27. If he settled what’s to stop 24 more women from saying he violated them too?

  28. I get a massage monthly. And over my lifetime, I’ve had 4 different therapists, changing for different reasons.

    I try to keep the same therapist because they get to know my body and how it will react to certain techniques. My body/muscles are very tight (probably from being poor at warming up before sports) and it’s usually a man, because most of the women aren’t strong enough (other than one situation) to get deep enough and have an effective result.

    So, 16 lawsuits/24 accusers over the course of 1? year.

  29. One potential negative of multiple settlements in this case impacts other NFL players. If the public sees or believes a million (for example) dollars is being paid to 24 different accusers, you can bet that other players will be even more at risk from accusations and potential payouts to accusers wanting their payday as well. This would also likely not make Watson’s behavior and settlements popular among other players – as in “C’mon man! WTH are you doing?!” It could result in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t outcome.

  30. You state “The retired judge would serve as a mediator, negotiating an agreement between Watson and each and every accuser for a dollar figure and other terms that would fully resolve the cases.”

    I don’t think Watson has enough money to pay off 16 different women. Then there’s the matter of payoffs equating to an admission of guilt. Any way you cut it, they’ve got Watson by the short hairs and his career is essentially trashed. If his current contract with the Texans contains a “morals” clause, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team just release him and move on. Before all this garbage started, it was unlikely Watson would be the Texans’ QB anyway.

  31. Regardless of innocence or guilt, why would you put yourself in this position over and over again – because you momentarily got away with it? Now look at the mess he’s in b3cause he can’t control hi impulses

  32. I’ve had one massage in my life; I behaved, she behaved…it was pretty good. Now, however, I feel like I would not go into a massage room without a third party present. I am not the president of US Steel, I am a nobody (or less) like most of us here but I still have a reputation. This has nothing to do with whatever DW4 did or didn’t do, it is how I view the industry now.

  33. Settling is not an admission of guilt. Cases like this are he said/she said with very little that can be proven. Letting the case go on is very costly both to his reputation and financially.

    The most likely scenario is that Watson will have to settle eventually, so why not now? Every day the public opinion is swaying against Watson without proof against him. Why would Watson fight the enviable?

  34. I imagine the Texans are wishing they had traded Watson when they had the chance. This is going to get ugly regardless of the truth and it’s very possible they end up with nothing.

  35. Thing is all of these are being brought by the same lawyer who has a history of questionable accusations. I do not know if he has done anything or not but I question the whole thing. Another is these are misconduct accusations. Not rape or anything that is actually illegal other than a misdemeanor of exposure. This sounds like another case of me too and a chance to get a check from a guy who just signed a huge contract. There is no protection for anyone of just being accused. If they settle then I promise you it is all bs produced by Buzbee. The man should be disbarred.

  36. The more Buzbee talks, the more it seems these cases are a lot of “he said, she said”. Still nothing on a police investigation? Of course the accusers want Watson to settle. It’s why they are all talking to Buzbee and not the police. I don’t know if they’re true victims or not, but this whole situation is not conducive to Watson being a criminal.

  37. If any of these women refuse to settle this for money via a mediator and want Watson prosecuted, there goes the “consensual” claim out the window.

  38. I’d want him to pass a polygraph test, so that I could put my full effort and attention behind a cause that I believed to be right and just and proper. I wouldn’t want to attach my name and reputation to someone I didn’t fully believe

    Most defense lawyers don’t care as much about their reputation as they do about collecting their big legal fees. That seems to be true of Watson’s lawyer and he’s probably loving life right now.

  39. “The more Buzbee talks, the more it seems these cases are a lot of “he said, she said”.”


    What else could these cases be but “she said, he said”? There’s not going to be anyone else in the room during a massage, that’s the whole point. As far as a criminal case, unless the women make a complaint, there’s nothing the criminal system can do. But I’m betting that will follow soon, as Buzbee passes off information to the D.A.s office.

  40. Any settlement offer from Watson should be global. In other words, if everyone doesn’t settle, nobody can settle. You could change that later perhaps, but the main value to Watson is to avoid a prolonged court case, which one plaintiff could bring and cause almost the same damage to Watson’s reputation and a years-long distraction.

  41. But why aren’t there CRIMINAL charges too? How can he get out of this just paying a civil lawsuit off?

  42. curtis20 says:
    March 24, 2021 at 6:48 am
    Why would you settle if you’re innocent of ALL the charges?


    It happens all the time. because it’s cheaper than what it will cost in court

  43. He can get rid of the civil claims via settlement, but can negate the criminal claims only if he has strong confidentiality/non-disclosure terms in those settlements.

  44. To me there is no gray area and out of court settlement. If he is innocent, fight it vigorously and counter sue for damages and attorney fees. If he is guilty, accept the suspension and possible jail time.

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