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Civil lawsuits against Deshaun Watson could drag out for several years

This is a recording of Overtime Monday through Friday on WOIO.
Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Deshaun Watson walked into his new job as the Cleveland Browns quarterback Friday, defending his name from allegations of sexual assault.

“I never done things that these people are alleging, and I’m going to continue to fight for my name and clear my name,” Watson said.

Two grand juries didn’t find enough evidence for criminal charges, but Watson’s legal challenges are far from over.

Nearly two dozen civil lawsuits from these women are still active.

Watson appeared composed under pressure at Friday’s press conference, as he answered questions for the first time in Cleveland on allegations of sexual assault.

“I know these allegations is very, very serious. Like I mentioned before, I never assaulted any woman, I never disrespected any woman. I was raised by a single-parent mom, who has two aunties as her sisters, that’s who raised me. I was raised to be genuine, and respect everything and everyone around me,” Watson said.

Browns GM Andrew Berry spoke about their vetting process for Watson.

He said they spoke with people who knew Watson at different stages of his life.

And they hired independent investigators in Harris County, Texas to get what they called a “balanced” look at the cases.

Berry said attorneys told them not to reach out to the women who came forward because that would “interfere with the investigation.”

“We’ll never be able to walk in the shoes of individuals who have been affected by sexual assault, and that is something we thought about a lot as we went through this process,” Berry said.

It’s not over for Watson.

There are 22 active civil lawsuits filed against him in Harris County, Texas, alleging sexual assault and misconduct during massages.

Most of them are filed under “Jane Doe.”

19 Investigates found in most cases, Watson reached out to these women, usually massage therapists, through social media.

One woman said in the court filings she now feels “ashamed and embarrassed” and “he manipulated the massage into sexual coercion.”

We wanted to know how long it could take for the civil lawsuits to play out in court.

We spoke to Beachwood attorney Brian Spitz, with Spitz Law Firm, over the phone.

Spitz has represented women in these types of cases and men who have been falsely accused.

“Every civil case is different, it will depend on the venue, not only the county and state but the judge. It will depend on the parties involved in the case,” he said.

Spitz said cases like this can drag out from one to four years.

We found in court filings, Watson asked for a jury trial.

Spitz said most cases like this settle.

“That’s not indicative of whether the defendant is responsible for the conduct he’s being accused of or not, it’s usually a factor of the cost of litigation, the risks of going to a jury, the need to put these types of things behind you. And concentrate on the task at hand, for Deshaun, getting the Browns as far as he can into the playoffs,” Spitz said.

Spitz said Watson won’t need to be in-person very much in Texas as the civil proceedings continue.

We’ll keep you posted as this all plays out in court.

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