De-fense! De-fense!

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Campo gets taken to court for not hitting a man

At this point, Campo and Washington agree that Washington shut his phone and stuck it in his pocket. Washington says he remained in place and asked Campo what his problem was; Campo insists Washington began approaching him, assumed a threatening stance, and said, "Come on, motherfucker. I'll kick your fucking ass right now. Let's go."

Washington says that even though he didn't know who Campo was (yet), he wasn't about to throw-down with the guy. "I was very, very scared," he insists--even though Campo had one hand in his pocket and was holding a leather satchel in the other. For a while, both men apparently stood there, staring at each other in silence, each afraid the other man was going to take a swing at him. About this time, Washington realized who Campo was and says he told Campo he didn't mean anything, that "it's just a game."

"He was yelling all these obscenities at me--bastard, f-you," Washington recalls. "And when I realized who this guy was and what had just taken place, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure this man is ballistic. At that particular time, he had just lost to Green Bay, and his own boss criticized him all over the paper about his defense. So I'm standing there with a madman screaming at me."

Campo says that the two traded a few more remarks but that he eventually backed off, afraid a man of Washington's size could hurt him and equally worried that if he got into a fight with a fan, he could lose his job. Campo says he told Washington, "Hey, fuck you," then turned to walk away when the limo driver taunted him: "Oh, you're nothing but a little fucking pussy, anyway." Washington says his exact words were that he called Campo "a faggot."

Either way, Campo recalls he wheeled around, dropped the briefcase, and accepted the challenge. "OK," he recalls saying, "if you want to go now." Campo says the impending fight was broken up by a cop and that he just let it go, even when the officer asked if he wanted to pursue the matter. "I said to [the officer], 'Don't worry about it,'" Campo explains in his deposition. "Nowhere in my mind did I think that there would be any lawsuit from an argument in a parking lot."

He could not have been more wrong. Washington says he was so upset over the argument, he couldn't sleep that night--"I was a nervous wreck," he says--and remains nervous to this day about going to Texas Stadium because he parks his limo next to the coaches' parking lot. He says he only decided to file suit against Campo when a friend asked him what he was going to do about the situation.

"Something's gotta be done about it," Washington says. "I was attacked; I was assaulted."

"Mr. Campo shows a lack of self-control and professionalism," lawyer Fein says. "His decision-making is flawed by his temper, and this case shows that Mr. Campo is not a good example for his players nor for the children of the Dallas metropolitan area or for Cowboy fans in general."

In March, Campo explored the possibility of settling the suit, even though his lawyer, Patrick Wadlington, insists in legal documents that the coach "considers the risk of an adverse judgment against him and in favor of Washington to be less than zero." If nothing else, Campo figured it would be easier and cheaper to settle than to waste thousands in legal fees.

Eric Fein and Pat Wadlington sent missives back and forth concerning possible settlements. Campo was prepared to concede Washington a "nuisance" settlement. But damned if the coach was going to pay the $42,000 Washington was demanding (he initially wanted $50,000). Campo's offer was more along the lines of $2,000, which Fein rejected in a letter to Wadlington. In that same letter, Fein also threatened Wadlington with making the case public if Campo doesn't pay up.

"It is most likely that this will be the last opportunity to dispose of this matter discreetly," Fein wrote. Two days later, on April 8, Wadlington shot back a note that accused Fein and Washington of looking for "hush money" from the Cowboys. "The playing of your 'media card' is simply not going to earn you the jackpot," Wadlington wrote.

In April, Wadlington and Fein did manage to set up a settlement conference between Campo and Washington. But the meeting never happened.

According to Wadlington, Fein informed Campo and his attorneys that Washington was "too scared and upset" over his previous altercation with Campo and couldn't even sit in the same room with the coach, which was "ridiculous," says Wadlington in legal documents. The meeting was canceled, as were any future talks of settling the suit. Now, it is likely this case will go to trial in January, unless Campo and the Cowboys are involved in post-season play.

Washington says he doesn't expect to get rich off the Cowboys, that he merely wants to show Campo he can't get away with treating a man so badly. He doesn't even want an apology--"it wouldn't be sincere," he says--merely to get even. As Washington says, "It has to cost him in some way."

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