As Deshaun Watson prepares for his first full season with the Cleveland Browns, he is not out of the woods yet due to his legal issues.
While he has settled out of court for most of his sexual assault allegations, he must face a civil trial in the case of Lauren Baxley.
Attorney Tony Buzbee once had 25 clients pressing charges against Watson. However, one of them withdrew her complaint, while 23 settled in August 2022. Baxley is her remaining client regarding Watson’s sexual misconduct.
In a statement given to Cleveland.com, Buzbee said:
“All other victims in the Deshaun Watson litigation that this firm represented have settled their claims. Ms. Baxley, to her credit, has refused, and wants a public trial. I intend to help give her that.
"She is entitled to have a trial on her claims; I will proudly present her case. Ms. Baxley has a strong case, and I encourage the internet trolls to take note as we proceed.”
Baxley declined to settle because the Browns' starting play-caller did not acknowledge that he physically assaulted her. In an article for The Daily Beast, she wrote:
“Watson still refuses to admit that he harassed and committed indecent assault against me. Any settlement offer he has made has been a dismissal of his evil actions, and I know that unless there is an authoritative intervention, he will continue his destructive behavior.”
Aside from Baxley’s case, Watson must face another civil lawsuit, with the plaintiff being represented by Anissah Nguyen. The suit was filed against him in October 2022, and he must provide a deposition in June or July.
Deshaun Watson looks to put his legal matters behind
While Deshaun Watson managed to play six games last season, he was nowhere near the player who led the league in passing yards in 2020. He is not in game shape, considering he last played competitive football two seasons ago before his first game with the Browns.
The Houston Texans’ team then refused to play him during the 2021 season even though he wasn’t on injured reserve. The team also did not officially suspend Watson even as the sexual harassment allegations against him started to surface.
Meanwhile, the NFL even took the legal route to identify an appropriate penalty for him. They hired former federal judge Sue L. Robinson to hear from the side of both the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The league argued for an indefinite suspension of at least one season.
However, the NFLPA brought in Jeffrey Kessler to represent Watson. Kessler is the same attorney who represented Tom Brady during the Deflategate scandal. Their side argued for lighter punishment by citing previous suspensions that the league bestowed.
Initially, Robinson suggested that Deshaun Watson be given a six-week suspension. Eventually, he received a 11-game suspension and a $5 million fine for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He was also required to undergo a treatment program and behavioral evaluation.