HOUSTON (AFP) – A person familiar with the league’s investigation told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s decision to settle 20 of 24 civil sexual misconduct lawsuits may not deter the NFL from granting him an extended suspension.
Watson accused by massage therapists from harassing, assaulting, or touching them during dates when he played for the Houston Texans.
Once the paperwork is completed in the 20 settlements, “those specific cases will be dismissed,” Houston attorney Tony Busby, who represents all 24 women, said Tuesday in a statement. He added that the terms of the settlements are “confidential” and that his legal team “will not comment further on the settlements or those issues.”
Watson still faces discipline from the league, which has conducted its own investigation into the 26-year-old’s behavior and is expected to make a decision ahead of Brown’s open training camp on July 27.
Following Buzbee’s announcement, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the agreements “have no impact on the collectively negotiated disciplinary process.”
“The settlement does not give anyone a pass,” another league official told the Associated Press and noted that the lengthy suspension remained in place. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was not over.
NFL investigators interviewed Watson in Houston over the course of several days last month. They spoke with 11 of Watson’s accusers who, according to a person familiar with the investigation, said Buzbee refused to make more women available for interviews.
The league will present their findings to disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge who will decide Watson’s sentence. This is the first case of Robinson, who was appointed jointly by the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
Brown, who signed the Pro Bowler three times to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract in March, had no immediate comment on the settlements.
Watson has denied wrongdoing and has vowed to clear his name. Rusty Harden, Watson’s senior attorney, did not immediately respond with an email or text message requesting comment.
In March, two separate Texas grand jury He refused to indict him in criminal complaints arising from the allegations. Subsequently, Brown and several other teams pursued Watson, as Cleveland persuaded him to waive the no-trade clause and join a team with a strong roster.
The first 22 lawsuits The last lawsuit against Watson was filed in March and April 2021. The last two lawsuits were filed after HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel aired An interview last month with two women who spoke in detail about their encounters with Watson.
Settlements come after the New York Times It was reported earlier this month that Watson booked massage dates with at least 66 different women over the course of 17 months while playing for the Texas team. The report said the Texas representative presented Watson with a non-disclosure agreement that he gave to some of the women to sign.
Last week, Watson reiterated his innocence and sidestepped any questions about whether he would agree with any of the women.
“I’ve never used anyone,” Watson said. June 14 in his first public comments since Brown introduced it in March. I didn’t harass anyone nor did I harass anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.”
Busby said he plans to bring the four unresolved lawsuits to trial, including the first by Ashley Solis, who has previously made her name public.. In an interview with HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Solis said she felt threatened by Watson after her massage when he told her she had a career protecting her and “I know you don’t want anyone messing with her like I don’t want anyone messing with me.”
Without Solis, Busby said, “the behavior these women experienced will likely continue unchecked.”
“The reality is that without her courage and willingness to step up, the NFL would not currently be a reflective system; there would be no examination of how teams intentionally or intentionally enabled a certain behavior,” Busby said.
Cleveland, who had spent nearly two decades searching for a quarterback, followed Watson and signed despite his complicated legal situation.
Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam knew Brown would face heavy criticism for the move, but were comfortable with the decision after conducting their own investigation and meeting privately with Watson.
Now, the team is eager to see how long they might be without Watson. Brown’s side have signed veteran reserve Jacoby Brissett, who will move to the primary job if Watson is suspended.
Maadi reported from Tampa, Florida. Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers of Cleveland contributed to this report.
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