The full, 15-page decision in the Deshaun Watson case has been released. You can read it here.
And you should. It’s largely devoid of legalese and other jargon. But if you can’t or won’t read it (or if you did and you want our take on it), we’ll be posting several items regarding what it means, and where things may go from here.
For starters, one thing that seemed very significant is that Judge Robinson concluded, in the most tactful way possible, that Watson didn’t tell the truth when testifying. As noted at page 7, Watson declined to concede that he developed erections during massages, or that he inadvertently touched therapists with his penis. Judge Robinson wrote that he “categorically denied the allegations against him, including that he ever developed an erection during a massage.”
Then there’s this extremely important sentence: “It is difficult to give weight to a complete denial when weighed against the credible testimony of the investigators who interviewed the therapists and other third parties.”
In other words, Judge Robinson doesn’t believe him. She doesn’t believe him because the accounts from the accusers were, as explained in footnote 25 on page seven, “substantially corroborated” by “contemporaneous text messages and discussions with third parties after their interactions with Mr. Watson.” Also, as mentioned in footnote 26 on that same page, “some massage therapists who publicly supported Mr. Watson stated that he had become erect during sessions with them.”
This becomes critical to a potential appeal because the facts, as determined by Judge Robinson, become binding on both sides if/when the Commissioner or his designee are considering the ultimate punishment. Although Judge Robinson stopped short of being as blunt and candid as she could have been, the Commissioner could declare in the final written decision that Watson lied while testifying when he denied any wrongdoing and made the broad claim that he never had an erection during a massage.
Thus, even though the outcome was better for Watson than many had expected, the factual findings made by Judge Robinson could give the Commissioner everything he needs to justify a stronger suspension. Indeed, Judge Robinson affirmatively found by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., more likely than not) that Watson engaged in non-violent sexual assault, that his conduct endangered the safety and well-being of another person, and that his behavior undermined or put at risk the integrity of the NFL.
Those factual findings could ultimately fuel an outcome on appeal that Watson and the NFLPA won’t like, at all.