CLEVELAND, Ohio — Two of Deshaun Watson’s accusers got emotional during interviews with Soledad O’Brien on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel Tuesday night, and one said it was obviously wrong that he didn’t do anything wrong during his massage appointments.
Watson, 26, declined HBO’s request to be interviewed for the play about his ongoing NFL investigation, but one of his attorneys, Leah Graham, steadfastly pleaded his innocence to O’Brien, asking: “What is the evidence for.” a debt?”
The interviews aired the same day that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revealed during the closing press conference at a league meeting in Atlanta that the NFL is close to completing its review of the allegations against Watson and referring the matter to Independent Disciplinary Commissioner Sue L Robinson , the former US District Judge, to determine whether to fine or suspend him or both under the terms of the Personal Conduct Policy.
“I can’t give you a timeline,” Goodell told reporters at a news conference. “I think we’re getting close to the end of the investigation period and then at some point that will be dealt with by our Disciplinary Officer. And that will happen shortly. And then we’ll see where that comes out.”
The two accusers interviewed by O’Brien, Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes, clearly hope the NFL will drop the gavel on Watson. They are among 22 massage therapists – all represented by attorney Tony Buzbee – who have filed civil suits against Watson for sexual misconduct on appointments and feel they are not being listened to or believed.
But Watson’s lawyers feel the same way about him throughout the trial.
Indeed, Watson’s lead attorney, Rusty Hardin, told cleveland.com on Friday that his client was doomed to public opinion from the start in court because sexual misconduct is such a highly topical social issue and no one gave him a chance.
Hardin also told 92.3 The Fan on Tuesday that in such situations, “the presumption of innocence goes out the window and the allegation is treated as the truth of the matter. And that was the box Deshaun was in from the start. The type they described is not the type we know. And yet he was not given the benefit of the doubt, and he should be.”
But Solis and Hayes, both of whom broke down in tears during their interviews, painted a compelling picture for O’Brien, as Hardin had expected.
“He ends up baring himself (during the massage) and I hurried and put the towel over him and he was like, ‘Oh, you don’t have to worry about the towel,'” Solis told O’Brien. “I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ He asked me to work on his stomach. But the moment I went over his navel, he told me he didn’t want me to work there. He told me he wanted me to work lower. He kept telling me to go deeper and say, ‘Don’t be afraid, you can go in there.’
Solis, the first therapist to file a lawsuit, explained, “I was just starting to get really cold at this point. A wave just took over my body. I was so hot. i was sweating It was becoming increasingly clear that this was not what I had signed up for, this was not what I had envisioned the session to be.
“While I was working, he purposely grabbed himself and put his penis on my hand and I immediately pulled my hand away and started crying and told him I was done,” Solis said. “I don’t want to do that anymore.”
Solis said after telling Watson she was done with the session, she felt intimidated.
“He said, ‘I know you have a career to protect.’ And ‘I know you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with me,'” she said. “For me, that was the point where I really got scared … because that sounded like a threat to me.”
Solis was upset that Watson’s legal team insisted that any sexual contact during the dates be consensual. In depositions, Watson admitted to having had sex with three of the plaintiffs, but that it was consensual.
“I’m not a sex worker,” Solis said. “I’m a masseuse. If they say anything was consensual, they either don’t realize it or they don’t care about the danger I’m putting myself in. Because that sends the message to people that massage therapists do things like that.”
Solis also believes Watson’s acclaimed blockbuster deal with the Browns has encouraged him.
“Anyone that’s that happy to work with him going forward is also happy with what he’s done and what he might be doing,” she said.
As the lawsuits began to pour in, Solis said she was “sad that anyone had to feel like I did when I was in the room because it’s so scary.”
As for why two separate grand juries in Texas didn’t indict Watson on criminal charges, Solis said, “I have absolutely no idea. I don’t understand how one of those people could sit in front of me and think what they did was okay.
Hayes wept during the interview as O’Brien played a clip of Watson denying any wrongdoing during the Browns’ inaugural press conference in March, during which he stated that he had never disrespected or attacked a woman.
“It’s a lot,” she said. “It’s kind of a constant reminder of what happened. And to say he’s never done anything to a woman is a blatant lie.”
Hayes defended contact with Watson after the alleged wrongdoing.
“I wasn’t sure what he was capable of,” she said. “He could have physically attacked me. He could have ruined my business. So I had to protect myself and my business. So I saw it right. Did I ever see him again after that? no did i knock him out Yes.”
Hayes explained that Watson “wanted me to do a kind of V-movement in his pelvic area. So go over his stomach to his thighs, back to his stomach. I just kept massaging and doing what he wanted until his penis kept touching me while I did it. He moved his penis back and forth while my hands moved as well.”
She said he intentionally made his penis touch her hands.
“Eventually he ejaculated,” Hayes said. “It was shameful and embarrassing and disgusting.”
Both Frauen and Buzbee, dismayed that Watson was getting an NFL record, guaranteed the Browns a $230 million contract after acquiring it in a trade with the Texans. The Browns, who had beaten four teams for Watson, gave up six draft picks, including three first-rounders, for him and one sixth-rounder.
“It’s like a big fuck you,” Solis said. “That’s how it feels. We do not care. He can run and throw, and that interests us.”
Hayes said: “It was sick for me. I felt like he was being rewarded for bad behavior.”
Buzbee said: “I don’t think the team cares what Deshaun Watson might have done in a massage session. And based on my personal experience with the NFL, I don’t think they care either.”
O’Brien asked Graham, who spent about eight minutes on a video call with O’Brien on Monday morning after Watson’s team initially declined to be interviewed, why the public would believe one man versus 22 women.
“It’s 22 women,” Graham said. “It’s a lawyer. There’s only one attorney willing to take on these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ testimony, Mr. Buzbee wasn’t the first, probably not the second or third attorney she went to, but he was the only one who took her case. Why? Not because it’s of any value, but because he would use these cases to grow his following on social media and quite frankly, to be a part of shows like this.”
O’Brien asked Graham if Watson had sex with three of the massage therapists when he said he was looking for nothing more than professional services.
“Well, with every massage, I’ll tell you that he went for a professional massage only with the intention of doing it, and only in the three instances where there was sexual behavior – consensual sexual activity – did it happen after the massage session ended.” said Graham. “And Mr Watson has testified and insists that in each and every instance this sexual activity was initiated by the plaintiff.”
O’Brien asked Graham if Watson still had any regrets.
“As he said in his statements last week, yes he has no regrets because he has done nothing wrong,” Graham said. “He did nothing wrong with these massages. And although – to your first question, ‘How can he be innocent?’ I think the real question is, ‘What evidence is there of any guilt?’ “
Hardin, who was making the rounds in the media leading up to the HBO post, released a video shortly beforehand.
“No one really wanted to deal with the fact that two different grand juries found there were no criminal events,” he said. “The grand jury decides on the probable cause, is there any basis for believing that a crime has been committed, whether it be a felony or a misdemeanor. And those two grand juries found no probable reason to believe that any crime was committed at all.
“That should have had a big impact because initially there were allegations that he used violence against these women. It turned out that only three of the 22 lawsuits involved allegations of violence and then, when subjected to a law enforcement investigation and presented to a grand jury, it was found that no violence had been used. There was no evidence of a crime involving any form of violence.
“As we have said before, and as Deshaun insisted under oath, each of these three occasions was consensual and instituted by the women. But in the other… 19 cases, there was no sexual activity. And Deshaun has already given nine testimonies – eleven now – swearing under oath that other than those three incidents there was no sexual activity and that they were consensual.”
Hardin told Cleveland.com Friday that they will not reconsider the idea of settling the civil claims until the NFL has ruled on his discipline.
Meanwhile, Watson takes full part in the Browns organized team activities underway at the team’s headquarters in Berea.
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