The alleged victims must be heard. The accused's defense must be heard, too.
And yes, as a necessary evil, the jousting between the attorneys must be heard as well, meaning the latest wrinkle in the Deshaun Watson case features the accusers' lawyer Tony Buzbee insisting there will be no out-of-court settlement regarding his 22 clients ... and Rusty Hardin, the attorney who represents the Houston Texans quarterback, answering in kind.
“In a recent interview, Mr. Buzbee stated that ‘a settlement is not happening,” Hardin said. “We certainly agree that there are currently no settlement negotiations being conducted.''
So, no settlement. Except, Hardin continued, While we have never approached Mr. Buzbee about a settlement, he has approached us on numerous occasions in the past about the possibility of a settlement.''
So ... maybe a settlement?
Money will not solve all the problems allegedly encountered by the accusers. Nor will money clear the name of Watson, who claims innocence in the sexual assault cases. And we have no intention of "playing lawyer'' here, as there is already a volume of media members filling that "void.''
But Hardin says Buzbee has broached the idea of a financial settlement. And even in Hardin's own "shut-down'' of the idea, he mentions, "We want none of the participants — the plaintiffs or Mr. Watson — muzzled by a settlement agreement. Mr. Buzbee does not feel the same.”
Meaning Hardin's side is open to the concept as well.
An important point from Hardin on Watson's behalf: Their side will be asking for the opposite of confidentiality. That's unusual; we will leave it to the court of public opinion to decide if it is also telling.
Forget football (and the distinct possibility of the NFL handing down its own punishment, regardless of whether Watson is actually guilty) for a moment. If both sides agreed to this, there would be added clarity ... and there would be a way of moving on - as painful as it would surely be for anyone victimized in the circumstance.
The jousting would, at some point, need to stop, however. Hardin is repeating his accusation that Buzbee's side is engaging in "extortion,'' saying, “I am a little bemused by Mr. Buzbee pronouncing piously that his clients are not going to settle and that they want their cases to play out in court. The fact that this whole thing started with his attempt to extort money and avoid court shows that irony is not dead. I guess it has just been raised to a new level.”
We wonder if the situation could be taken to another level - one better for all parties - if the lawyers' word dance around the subject of a settlement would advance to an actual negotiation about a concept that both sides actually seem amenable to.
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