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Author: A.J. Perez
The first woman to step forward publicly to accuse Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct and her attorney roundly criticized the NFL’s investigative and disciplinary process that led to a six-game suspension of the Cleveland Browns quarterback.
“What do the actions of the NFL say to little girls who suffered at the hands of someone who has power?” Ashley Solis told reporters on Thursday. “That it’s not a big deal? That they don’t care? Tough (expletive)? That’s what I have taken from their actions.”
Former federal judge and the appointed disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson oversaw a three-day hearing that produced Monday’s six-game ban. The NFL appealed Robinson’s decision and the league said in a statement to Front Office Sports that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has selected former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to adjudicate the appeal.
Robinson wrote in her ruling that “NFL investigators were only able to interview 12” and the “NFL relied for its conclusions on the testimony of 4 therapists.” Houston-based Tony Buzbee said his office has been “open and cooperative” and offered all 24 clients to NFL investigators.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy pushed back on Buzbee’s claims that the investigation wasn’t thorough and added that half of the Buzbee’s clients either were not made available or declined to be interviewed.
The NFL’s investigation — led by two former prosecutors with extensive experience in sexual violence and misconduct cases — interviewed 49 people, including third-party witnesses recommended by Buzbee.
Beyond the interviews, Robinson’s findings stated NFL investigators produced a 215-page investigative report that contained “substantial documentary evidence.” McCarthy said some of the documents included information provided by Buzbee.
Watson was never charged with a crime related to the allegations and he’s denied wrongdoing.
“Some of the interviews spent most of the time on a deep dive of the victim and little to no questions about the conduct being alleged,” Buzbee said. “In some cases, it was our view that when the questioners weren’t being aggressive and hostile, they weren’t that interested in what was being said and what actually happened. Many of my clients left those sessions thinking they had not been heard.”
Solis told the reporters gathered that she received death threats and had people confront her in public.
Buzbee read messages he said he received from some of the clients he represented in lawsuits filed against Watson.
“Six games isn’t even a slap on the wrist. It’s a kiss on the cheek,” Buzbee said reading from one of the accusers. “They did not really investigate because they did not really care. They investigated to the extent you call it that to save face. They don’t care if women or people are abused.”
“All they wanted to do was to sanitize the situation and normalize the behavior,” Buzbee read from another message from a client.
Robinson stated in her report that Watson committed “sexual assault” and his behavior “poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person.” But despite that determination, Robinson’s six-game suspension of Watson — and lack of fine — caused outrage that has continued to reverberate since it became public on Monday.
On Wednesday, the NFL gave notice that it would appeal the six-game ban and will reportedly seek up to a year-long suspension along with mandated treatment and, potentially, a hefty fine.
While Goodell has the authority to hear the appeal, he instead tapped Harvey.
“We are here today with a message to the NFL,” Buzbee said at the end of the news conference. “Every victim of sexual assault is watching Roger Goodell and the NFL right now. This idea that Mr. Goodell is going to hand it off to someone else who is ‘independent,’ we don’t buy it. Mr. Goodell, what will you do? It’s never too late to do the right thing. That’s what these women and those watching are expecting.”
The post Accusers, Attorney Rip NFL’s Deshaun Watson Investigation appeared first on Front Office Sports.
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Author: A.J. Perez