Although Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has not been charged with any of the 10 criminal charges against him, Houston Police Department detective Kamesha Baker testified last week that her investigations led her to believe Watson had committed multiple crimes. Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson has received a copy of the Baker deposit record, which is not subject to any kind of court order. He analyzed it thoroughly.
Three important points stand out. They are summarized below.
First, the questioning of attorney Rusty Hardin furthers the misguided notion (as articulated by co-attorney Leah Graham last week) that the presumption of innocence at trial should also apply at the investigative stage. Essentially, Hardin and Graham believe that when a woman files a criminal complaint of alleged sexual misconduct, the law enforcement response should be skepticism and cynicism, not support and comfort.
Consider how things would play out from Hardin’s and Graham’s point of view of the system if/when a woman files a criminal complaint for sexual misconduct. “Sorry ma’am, but we have to assume the accused is innocent, so you better have something more substantial than your own story of what happened.”
It just doesn’t work that way. Yes, it is up to the police to conduct a basic credibility check on the accuser. That’s part of what the police are trained to do. And if the person filing the complaint appears credible to those who have the skills and experience in such matters, that is enough to proceed. What should the police do if the suspect is exercising their constitutional right to remain silent? Drop the case?
No, that makes no sense. But it makes perfect sense that Hardin and Graham (and Watson) would want it that way. It offers the clearest path to their insistence that Watson did nothing wrong.
Second, Detective Baker’s testimony at times focused on the difference between consent and coercion. Baker argued that various facts inherent in the difference in height and physique between Watson and the women he hired on Instagram to provide him with private massages make consent difficult. That any sexual activity that has occurred may actually result from implicit concern about what would happen if the massage therapist refused Watson’s efforts to move from massage to sexual encounter.
Third, because the massage sessions were structured that way, the cases necessarily boil down to each woman’s word against Watson. That’s apparently how Watson wanted these massages to go. Two people in the room. No one else. As a result, there was never a witness to corroborate either participant’s version.
If Watson was really just looking for massages, his protection should not have come from a non-disclosure agreement from the Texans’ director of security, but from a third party who could break the connection if the massage therapist later claimed something inappropriate had happened. The circumstances he has arranged inevitably mean that cases come down to one’s word against the other’s. And Hardin, as part of his effort to prove that all 24 (soon to be 26 and eventually maybe more) women are lying, suggests that the police — and everyone else — should just assume they are.
Therefore, the raw number of allegations becomes relevant and compelling. If it was just one person, okay. But when it’s 24 or 26 and up, all telling basically the same story of a massage that went in a different direction, Watson’s confidence in topics of conversation about never attacking, never being disrespectful, never doing anything wrong becomes heavier to accept. Especially considering Hardin’s claim two weeks ago that getting a “happy ending” or trying to get one is not a crime.
These cases against Watson all stem from his alleged attempt to convert massage into sexual activity. All but three refused. The three who apparently claimed there was no real consent.
It’s impossible to ignore the raw numbers. If, as Hardin and Graham seem to think, each of these cases is baseless to reckless and were instigated by a Pied Piper bent on payday and celebrity, then surely there would be cracks in the foundation by now. Eighteen of the plaintiffs agreed to receive $100,000 each last year (before fees and expenses). They didn’t. Common sense says at least one of them would be agitating for money she thought she got last year if the real deal was shaking off Watson cash.
Hardin and Graham would likely argue that Buzbee held the plaintiffs together with promises that they would get more later. Again, common sense suggests that if this really was a big ploy aimed at framing Watson for “blackmail” or whatever term they would use to describe the cases, someone would step out of line or themselves would have said inappropriately in the meantime. Instead, the ranks continue to build up – and the plaintiffs continue to stick together.
If they aren’t, and if Hardin and Graham want the league, the media, the fans, and ultimately the jury to know that, they need to gather evidence of it and get it known to those who are able to spread the word . Instead, only the bare number of cases pending against Watson is spreading.
He’s either the victim of an unprecedented witch hunt against a wealthy and famous professional athlete, or he’s a predator. At this point there is no middle ground.