Deshaun Watson still faces the most problematic civil lawsuit

(Warning: This column contains allegations of sexual misconduct.)

It should come as no surprise that when Houston district attorney Tony Busby announced that 20 of his 24 clients had settled civil lawsuits against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, he spent most of the time talking about one of the plaintiffs who had not resolved matters. .

Ashley Solis.

Tuesday’s settlements are a step toward eventually getting Watson over this scandal and possibly returning to play NFL games, but it was by no means the end, or even close to it.

Solis and three other women still allege sexual assault, harassment, and inappropriate behavior from Watson after he hired them to work as a massage therapist. And Solis has always had a particularly strong case—and thus ugly and dangerous for Watson.

It was Solis who had a well established and professional massage therapy company. It was Watson who was contacted by Watson via Instagram. It’s Solis describing the creepy period leading up to the meeting, claiming that Watson wondered if she’d be alone before spreading naked on the massage table with a small hand towel and repeatedly directing contact to the groin area and then the penis.

Solis testified that she abruptly ended the meeting and cried in front of Watson, which Watson admitted under oath, describing Solis as a “tearful eye”. It’s Solis who received an apologetic text message from Watson, but also one that Solis would consider a threat if she spoke of the encounter.

“I know you have a career and a reputation,” Watson wrote. “And I know you’d hate someone messing with your character, just like I don’t want anyone messing with me.”

It’s Solis that Buzbee hopes to remain the focus.

“Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story,” Busby wrote in a statement. “Her case is not settled, and so her story and that of the three other brave women will continue. I look forward to the prosecution of these cases in a timely manner, consistent with other agenda commitments and the court’s schedule.”

Although 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits against Cleveland Browns quarterback, Deshaun Watson, have been settled, the first and most problematic case for him remains. (AP Photo/ Ron Schwane)

In other words, Ashley Solis’ case remains very compelling, and eventually the court will hear it, most likely in 2023.

Watson can either figure out how to settle that, or risk the NFL either delaying its disciplinary decision or swaying in fear of the headlines and potential details that will come up if they make it to court. The association reported on Tuesday that the settlements “have no impact on the collective discipline process,” in the words of spokesperson Brian McCarthy.

Watson’s position would ultimately go to former federal judge Sue L. Robinson to determine whether there was a violation. If Robinson believes there is a penalty, she will then recommend the penalty, although in the end it will be Commissioner Roger Goodell, or his designee, who makes the final decision.

This is as much a PR situation for the league as it is player discipline. As such, it would be understandable that the NFL would be concerned about imposing a seemingly light penalty if more details emerged, or an actual trial took place affecting public sentiment.

Or Goodell could put Watson on the commissioner’s exemption list, which would put Watson on indefinite paid leave and could make a final ruling later.

As this continues and the drip and drip of details and lawsuits continue, the situation for NFL Watson’s future has become even more dire. Where a suspension of six or eight matches seemed to be the most likely, almost no one is ruling out an entire season now.

Financially, Watson will be only slightly affected by the NFL penalty. His Cleveland contract is designed to protect as much money as possible. His $45 million signing bonus is untouchable, and his base pay of $1.035 million will be on a game-by-game basis.

However, the 26-year-old still, having held off by Houston for the 2021 season, doesn’t want to miss another full season from his start. And Cleveland, who has committed large financial assets, selective assets and PR assets to acquire Watson, doesn’t want to lose him in 2022 when he has a roster capable of competing for the Super Bowl.

However, we are still here.

Yes, 20 of the 24 have disappeared, which is the hurdle Watson removed. However, those that did remain were still a potential problem, especially Solis.

“The case against Deshaun Watson began with one phone call from a brave and strong woman,” Busby said in a statement.

You will likely end up with the same woman.

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