Judge Robinson’s ruling on Deshaun Watson hinges on issue of “non-violent sexual assault”

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On Monday, Judge Sue L. Robinson found, as to the factual allegations against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, that he did what the league accused him of doing. Her decision to suspend Watson only six games arose from separate considerations.

Specifically, she concluded that Watson engaged in a “non-violent sexual assault.” And she found, based on past precedent, that a non-violent sexual assault does not justify the kind of punishment the league sought.

At page 13 of her ruling, Judge Robinson writes that “prior cases involving non-violent sexual assault have resulted in discipline far less severe than what the NFL proposes here, with the most severe penalty being a 3-game suspension for a player who has been previously warned about his conduct.”

That player is, we’re told, Saints quarterback Jameis Winston. He was suspended three games to start the 2018 season, for touching an Uber driver “in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.” Winston’s suspension was the result of a negotiated compromise between the league and the NFL Players Association.

Judge Robinson concluded that the league is attempting to dramatically increase the punishment for non-violent sexual assault “without notice of the extraordinary change” in the league’s approach. The league’s position is that the rules aren’t changing, but that the facts have changed. At page 12, Judge Robinson explained that the league characterizes its recommended punishment of a one-year suspension as “unprecedented . . . because his conduct is unprecedented.”

Basically, the league’s position is that it hasn’t changed the rules. The league’s position is that it’s applying existing rules to a set of fact it never before witnessed.

As to Winston’s three-game suspension, he had only one victim. Watson had four. The NFL interviewed 12 of the persons Watson allegedly assaulted, but he was sued by 24 different people — and settled with all but one of them. Although Judge Robinson managed to ignore these basic realities, most will have a hard time doing so.

And some will have a hard time distinguishing “non-violent” sexual assault from sexual assault. Sexual assault is still sexual assault. If anything, it appears that clumsy efforts in the past by the league to be lenient as to some players prevented the league from getting the ruling it wanted from Judge Robinson as to Watson.

That said, the league secured the factual findings from Judge Robinson necessary to permit the Commissioner or his designee to impose a much higher punishment, if the NFL appeals the ruling. Again, she concluded that Watson did what he was accused of doing. At this point, it would be a surprise if the league doesn’t appeal the decision to Goodell, and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t increase the suspension.

55 responses to “Judge Robinson’s ruling on Deshaun Watson hinges on issue of “non-violent sexual assault”

  1. Okay, 3 games per touch. That’s 3games x 24 women. THAT seems like an appropriate response.

  2. The NFL is squeezing Watson pretty tight in its grip. Goodell won’t let go of this thing without applying more friction first.

  3. How is sexual assault non-violent? I’m just trying to understand where the logic is in that phrase.

  4. I disagree with your opinion that “…Judge Robinson managed to ignore these basic realities…” (of the larger population of 24 accusers).

    Robinson actually acknowledges that greater number more than once across her report. And, most importantly, she specifically defines WHY she focused on only 4: it was because the NFL presented only 4 in their presentation before her.

    “…the NFL relied for its conclusions on the testimony of 4 therapists…The resulting 215-page investigative report (“the Report”), along with the testimony of its two investigators, comprise the NFL’s case presented at the three-day evidentiary hearing…”

  5. The judge basically answered all of our questions. She just didn’t really have the power to go more than 6 games under current NFL/NFLPA wording. Read the entire findings she made. Hope she got a good payday from NFL.

  6. The NFL should abide by the judges decision. Heck 2 grand jury’s deemed the evidence insufficient for criminal charges. So, his guilt is not even agreed upon.

  7. The league appealing to Goodell..

    So the league appeals to the league and the league imposes its will.

    This whole charade is a facade.

    Drop punishment and move on. All parties deserve closure.

  8. So he’s a non-violent predator? This is likening it to Ricky Bobby. I’d be a friendly drug dealer, “hey guys, how’s it going? Wanna buy some crack?” An outside source found Watson guilty enough to levy 6 games against him. So he’s guilty but not all the way guilty. Weird logic applied to this case so far.

  9. If Winston got 3 games for one instance, the argument could be made that Watson should get 3 for each instance the NFL brought before the judge. 12 games minimum suspension.

  10. Judge Robinson was confined to the evidence presented and the NFL only presented facts from four incidents. She also must look at the history of similar prior incidents, the punishment, the rules and the contract in order to determine the punishment, if any, is merited. The NFL will now invite a law suit when they dole out a larger suspension based on publicity instead of presenting a case that would have merited a longer suspension. In the NFL, gambling, tampering with equipment and performance enhancing substance use is far more serious than sexual assault.

  11. Whether it was violent or not, I’ve lost interest in the NFL due to the inappropriate behavior of players, coaches and owners, and inconsistent consequences for their behavior. They are overpaid and clueless and Roger doesn’t get it. It’s this type of drama that made me cancel NFL ticket. Protecting the shield is a joke.

  12. Non violent sexual assault…so groping or touching a woman without her consent is not considered violent!!!

    At awe of the absolute absurdity of this whole disgusting affair…starting with the behavior of a guy who only knows how to throw a football, to the Texans looking the other way and enabling it, to the Browns commiting the money they did, to the NFL dismissing so many of the accusers, to the attorneys that have trivialized his actions, to how the authors of this site have equated this to what Kraft has done (no excuse for his actions at all!), to this disgusting rulling that demeanors women.

    Integrity of the shield! What integrity? What shield?

    Sad day for the NFL!

  13. The suspension shouldbe at least 34 games – he is a serial offender taking advantge of disadvantaged women. He is privileged SCUM.

  14. It’s a very strange decision from Judge Robinson, who made a distinction between “violent” sexual assault (cases where there is physical force or a direct threat of violence) and “non-violent” sexual assault (involving coercion or manipulation). Texas law makes no such distinction–either way, it’s sexual assault. The commissioner (or his designee) should say that all forms of sexual assault are morally reprehensible and significantly lengthen the suspension.

  15. The crime literally has the word assault in its name. No amount of word play is going to get around that.

  16. She pretty much made this appeal proof on a federal level. The Due Process clause of the Constitution requires that discipline / punishment be consistent and proportional. Her finding is that as a non violent offense the discipline has to be in line with other non violent offenses (6 games or less). Good luck Roger getting over that bar in federal court.

  17. Judge Robinson’s seeming failure to understand the difference in precedent for punishment between a single offence and multiple offences makes me glad she is no longer a Federal Judge.

  18. In addition you can’t change the rules/discipline after the fact or w/o notice, even for a more egregious act. That’s also a Due Process violation.

  19. It’s great to be rich and famous in America. You have the best of everything, and you’re above the law.

  20. Non sexual assault does NOT equate to actual forcible assault. In no way did Robinson state anywhere that there was a preponderance of evidence of forcible, actual, felony assault. The behavior Watson has been accused of, legally, falls under the definition of misdemeanor acts. That’s it. It is irresponsible and, worse, an obvious attempt to manipulate public sentiment when you know most folks won’t read Robinson’s actual report.

  21. Weren’t Daniel Snyder offenses also “non-violent”? So, should he also just get a six game suspension?

  22. For Pete’s sake make the 6 game suspension be the end of of this. Enough already! Let’s go play football!

  23. Judge Robinson didn’t “ignore” basic realities, she ruled on the case that the NFL actually presented to her, not on other hearsay or something she heard on TV or on PFT.

    I can only assume the league chose to present only 4 cases because they deemed any others as unhelpful to their argument.

  24. I have a solution. If the precedent is the Winston case and he received 3 games for 1 incident, then how about the NFL gives Watson the same. 3 game suspension for every offense. 25 victims(I think), 3 games per victim, 75 game suspension. Done.

  25. Based on this, the NFLPA should NEVER, EVER again claim that ‘each case is unique’. Now that this precedent is set, NFL GMs and owners can run out and do the same thing Watson did and get little or no discipline for their actions.

  26. Any type of sexual assault should warrant far more than this slap on the wrist. Good Lord, what was Judge Robinson thinking? To minimize the trauma Watson has inflicted on these women, just because it was non-violent is just wrong. Goodell really needs to bring the hammer down on Watson.

  27. If precedent is 3 games for 1 offense and the judge found Watson guilty on 4 counts why is not 12 games instead of 6? The NFL needs to at least double the suspension!

  28. I would suggest that some of the victims of Watson’s planned, plotted, and repeated sexual assaults would strongly disagree with the description of “non-violent.” Psychological damage may not be seen or readily apparent but is the most difficult to heal, if ever. It is failure on a grand level when a high profile celebrity athlete is protected more then the victims caught in his insidious web. When the first allegations were leveled many believed they were the result of gold-digging opportunists and many waited for the truth. The truth arrived when 54 cases were settled (30 by the Texans) and the judge concluded that Watson had done what he was accused of, lied about it and showed no remorse. The Brown’s ownership are complicit in the injustice. They lied when they publicly stated they vetted the matter and they lied when they stated Watson was remorseful contradicting the Judge. The Haslam’s, without regard for the victims, the NFL, or the facts plotted a workaround to benefit Watson and reduce the financial penalty of a suspension. Ownership should be severely punished for their actions through a very large fine and perhaps draft picks that unfortunately will hurt the faithful fans. Better yet suspend them for the full length of the Watson contract. Our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers deserve a safe society to live in without compromise.

  29. Finding Watson “guilty” and then opposing that light of a sentence is offensive. There is evidence that this was unwanted contact. That one therapist expressed her discomfort and another ended the session early. Neither took appointments with his again. Watson is a predator and 6 games is a joke. Reading what the judge wrote in her decision makes the light suspension even more pathetic.

  30. The commissioner will raise the penalty to 7 games, and he’ll compromise on 6 games and two quarters.

  31. Although Judge Robinson managed to ignore these basic realities…..

    Ummm, judge can only rule on what is presented. The question is why only 4 were presented.

    What the league wants is to : 1. Look tough on sexual misconduct while, 2. Minimizing time away for their star players. They want Watson playing stretch run of season….comeback/redemption story, which the pr folks are already prepping. Leverage the culture war flash points. Good for ratings you know.

  32. So if you don’t get the outcome you want and you have the power to change the rules to get the outcome you want you change the rules. Got it

  33. Six games for the first incident, a dozen for the second, a full season for the third, and two full seasons for the fourth. He can apply for reinstatement in March 2026 if he stays out of trouble and completes intensive mental health treatment.

  34. If Winston was 1 woman, 3 games…at a minimum Watson should be “4” women, 12 games… Never mind the 20-sone other women!

  35. Sure, there’s a difference between a violent sexual assault and a non-violent sexual assault, but the victims are damaged either way, and in either case the damage is likely to be long-lasting. There is no reason why the NFL should have to draw a distinction between the two when it imposes discipline, especially since in either case the player is using his celebrity and strength to impose his will on another human being. The concept that the NFL can’t do this because of some nebulous lack of notice of the policy is absurd.

    Any suspension in the 2022 season will result in an insultingly small monetary penalty for Watson. Is there any way to remedy that, so that Watson isn’t rewarded for the shenanigans he, his reps and the Browns played with his contract? Could the NFL delay the suspension until 2023 and bar the parties from changing the contract? If so, a full-year suspension would cost Watson $46M. But is there a simpler solution? And if the NFL wants to try to make a little chicken salad out of this chicken manure situation, they should donate the penalty amount to organizations that support victims of sexual assault.

  36. And they should appeal, and the suspension should be increased. He should be out for the whole season. Of course, that still doesn’t punish him enough because of the contract structure.

  37. I disagree, Mike! I read the report. Robinson’s ruling hinged on precedent set by the NFL. Specifically, what punishment for infractions of this nature have been doled out before & what the NFL published as punishment for this type of infraction.

  38. Maybe she should look up the meaning of the word non violent, when in same sentence sexual assault is used.

  39. And it would be a surprise if the NFLPA didn’t sue the league and win. This article does a lot of cherry picking. There is significant language in this ruling which Is damning to the NFL.

  40. I hope the NFL goes for the full season just so the ridiculous backloading of the contract becomes more of a talking point.
    Also, I have to wonder how defensive lines are going to be looking at this guy. You know many of them have daughters, sisters and wives. Will he be the recipient of the most targeting penalties and how many will be “missed” by the officials.
    Finally, this guy is a quitter as well as a perv. After getting boo’d for 60 minutes at every road game and essentially being considered a pariah will he go into a shell? Why put yourself through that? The money’s guaranteed after all.

  41. Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon received a entire year suspension for smoking pot. Pot does not make you a bad person but what Watson is accused of is the worst. You have to set a precedent nfl! Warning the way cancel culture is going the nfl just may have put themselves in in the worst position to make payroll to pay this sleeze bag

  42. The NFL won’t let this 6 game nonsense slide. If you go look at the language in the agreement, the NFL can file an appeal basically with itself within 3 days and then up the suspension to whatever the NFL sees fit. The only thing is, the NFL has to give a reason why they are doing what they are doing. Robinson is just there for optics, she really has no say in the matter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL suspends for 364 days, one day short of a year, just because the Browns got cute by playing the system on Watson’s contract and seeing as the NFLPA puffed out their chest by threatening an appeal if a calendar year was handed down. Long story short, the NFL is and will always be the judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to protecting the shield.

  43. Pacman Adam Jones suspended entire year for the strip club incident but all the shooting and all wrong doing was out of his hands or they couldn’t prove it wasn’t him. However made him sit a year for a person he was with went blasting there gun. When MLB sets the precedent gives a 2year suspension for 1 girl saying what 20plus said what Watson did.

  44. Just like Robert Kraft, he still hasn’t been convicted of anything. He is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law…not a court of his co-workers. Like it or not, he has rights.

  45. Wealth and privilege. If this was a regular, normal person without wealth and fame, their life would be over. It would be next to impossible to rise from the ashes of this and yet because of wealth and privilege and fame, a football player has not only profited inspite of it but was also insured against it and protected from it. Kind of goes against everything the NFL pretends to stand up for.

  46. So the judge says that because the league has been soft on sexual assault in the past, it should be soft on sexual assault now. Insanity.

  47. Winston had been previously warned when he received his 3 game suspension. Was the warning for his actions in college or was there ANOTHER incident with him that I am either forgetting, or wasn’t broadly reported?

  48. The league commonly imposes suspension on players never convicted of crimes. Like it or not, this has nothing to do with how a court of law works. Innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of a court of law is not the standard applied to suspensions in the NFL. Merely being accused of something like this heinous and amounts to “conduct unbecoming”. And the high number of accusations is pertinent to increasing the punishment on appeal from the league.

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