WHO'S TELLING THE TRUTH?

Here’s how dark a worst-case scenario for Watson, Texans could really get

A drawn-out legal battle could last months. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

The number of women filing civil lawsuits claiming that Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson sexually assaulted them now stands at 14. And counting. The lawsuits are available for the public to read on the Harris County district clerk's website. The details are graphic and paint Watson as an entitled, aggressive sexual predator. Twelve of the incidents allegedly occurred in 2020. Two allegedly happened this year, one as recently as this month. Tony Buzbee, lawyer for the women, say more women have come forward about unwelcomed sexual encounters with Watson and more lawsuits may be filed.

Watson insists that the allegations are false and he has always treated women with the "utmost respect." If these lawsuits ever reach court, it will be left for a jury to decide who's telling the truth: Deshaun Watson or 14 or more women.

He says, they say.

It would appear that Watson's lawyer Rusty Hardin has one job now: make this all go away and fast. Deshaun Watson's reputation, image and desire to be traded away from the Houston Texans are taking a daily beating, from which there may be no rescue unless Buzbee's tortuous, steady drip, drip, drip of lawsuits stops.

While a courtroom battle between Hardin and Buzbee would make great theater, with salacious testimony involving sex and celebrity, the rich and powerful against the poor and defenseless, it's in the best interests of both sides to resolve these lawsuits privately, out of the public's glare.

Here is one possible scenario: Watson and his accusers reach a financial settlement and sign non-disclosure agreements. Watson does not admit guilt. After teams lower their trade offers, he will play one more year with the Texans during which he is jeered mercilessly at road games. The Texans will trade him after next season.

That's a possible best case scenario for Watson.

Buzbee insists the lawsuits are not about money. "I personally don't need it, and the women don't want it," he said during a press conference. The lawsuits all seek minimal compensatory damages. That could change if Hardin calls and says let's make a deal.

Of course, Watson is presumed innocent of all these allegations. Civil lawsuits are not arrest warrants or guilty verdicts. Anybody can sue anybody for any reason. However, Watson needs to end this now, before the Houston Police Department and Harris Country district attorney decide to conduct an investigation and possibly file criminal charges. While a criminal case could proceed despite an out-of-court settlement and without the cooperation of the accusers, it is less likely.

"The sooner Rusty makes the civil cases go away, the less likely the criminal investigation would ever reach critical mass," said lawyer Brian Wice, Channel 2's legal analyst and winner of the 2016 "Percy Foreman Attorney of the Year" award.

While Hardin and Buzbee are two of the most famous and successful lawyers in the U.S., and both would love to notch a win against the other in court, neither wants this case to get that far for a simple reason …the loser has too much too lose.

If a jury sides with Watson, then Buzbee and the accusers have a lot to explain. Was this a frame job against a young, accomplished athlete? Who came up with this plot? There will be questions of whether the Houston Texans were involved in the takedown of Watson. It is stunning to listen to sports talk radio in Houston and hear fans accuse the Texans, specifically team owner Cal ("or Hal," according to Buzbee) McNair and his spiritual advisor Jack Easterby of colluding with Buzbee and the accusers. It is not a theory shared in the national media.

If a jury were to decide against Watson, that would destroy a glittering NFL career and possibly expose him to a criminal charges where a guilty verdict could compel him to register as a lifetime sex offender.

A drawn-out legal battle could last months, well past Texans training camp and the start of the 2021 NFL season. The NFL is not the NBA. An NBA team plays 82 games, so each game is less important than football's 16-game schedule. An NBA player can miss occasional games because he has to be in a courtroom. An NFL player, especially a star quarterback, can't miss games for non-injury reasons and weekday practices are critical to prepare for Sunday.

The NFL is conducting a separate investigation to determine if Watson violated the league's personal conduct code. While there are no guarantees, and again Watson is presumed innocent of all these allegations, a fast out-of-court settlement may help him avoid suspension or other punishment.

According to NFL insiders, several teams still are interested in trading for Watson. However, "interested" and willing to trade equal value are two different things. Any team trading for Watson while he is under investigation for sexual assault can expect howls of protest from social justice groups, ticket holders and fans. If teams can get Watson for pennies on the dollar, though, they might be willing to absorb bad publicity in exchange for winning.

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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