What could Michael Irvin and Erik Williams be thinking? Why would two guys with reputations steeped in strippers, sex toys, and baby oil--not to mention drugs or alcohol--want to mix it up in civil court with KXAS-TV Channel 5 and the Dallas Police Department?
Big Nate Newton, the Cowboys' motor-mouthed offensive lineman, may have shed light on the answer during a deposition he gave last month to Channel 5's lawyers, who are up to their briefs in questions about the Cowboys' debauched nightlives.
According to a transcript obtained by the Dallas Observer, Nathaniel Newton Jr. testified that Peter Ginsberg, the lawyer representing Irvin and Williams, has the two Cowboys stars convinced that the police and media went after them on rape allegations last December because they are black--an idea Newton himself finds silly.
Newton said he met with Irvin, Williams, and Ginsberg for about an hour in mid-May at Valley Ranch to go over, in Newton's words, "different deals as far as what I should do" in his deposition with Channel 5's lawyers.
Newton recalled leaving the meeting for a minute so Ginsberg, a Washington, D.C., attorney, could talk privately with Irvin about "what he should do in this case"--presumably, whether Irvin was going to join Williams in suing the police and Channel 5.
When Newton returned, Ginsberg, Irvin, and Williams were talking about "black and white things," Newton says.
"I say, 'Why y'all think they doing this?'" Newton said, referring to the media and police. "I don't know whether Erik or Mike said it, said, 'Because I am black.' I said, 'Well that's shit. That ain't right...not because you're black.'"
At that point, he said, Ginsberg chimed in, "Yeah, because he's black."
About two weeks later, on June 4, Irvin took a seat next to Ginsberg at a press conference and announced he would join Williams' lawsuits against the police and Channel 5, the station that first aired allegations by onetime stripper Nina Shahravan that Irvin held a gun on her while Williams and another man raped her at Williams' Far North Dallas home. Police cleared the three men 11 days later, after Shahravan recanted her story. Shahravan is now charged with perjury.
Irvin, who pleaded no contest to felony cocaine possession last July and is currently on probation, and Williams, who was no-billed on sexual assault charges in 1995 after he reached a civil settlement with his 17-year-old accuser, allege in federal lawsuits that the Dallas Police violated their civil rights by leaking false reports to Channel 5 reporter Marty Griffin, and by not clearing the two as soon as they knew the allegations were false.
In state lawsuits, they allege that Griffin defamed them and was negligent in sensationalizing news reports about Shahravan's rape allegation.
According to one source, the lingering litigation is the last thing Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants as he tries to steam-clean the Cowboys' sleazy image--and he's howling mad at Ginsberg for pushing the case.
Newton, who said he considers Williams to be "a close friend," nevertheless told the Channel 5 lawyers, "I don't hang around him no more than at team functions when he comes, and when he asks me to ride over with him to the Cowboy Cafe."
"I don't have no tapes," Newton said, referring to videotapes of Williams engaging in sex. "I ain't ever had multiple sex with Erik or nothing, or with his partners."
Newton said that he is unaware of Williams' sexual practices and whom Williams hangs out with, and that he knows nothing about the Shahravan episode, or about her. Newton said only that Williams was plainly mad the day the rape story broke. At football practice, "He said, 'You motherfuckers are fucking with me.'" Newton also said Williams told him, "When they found out that this girl done did me wrong, that [she] lied on me, I'm going to sue."
Earlier on the night Shahravan claimed she was raped--but in fact had consensual, videotaped sex with Williams and an unidentified friend, Williams says in his lawsuit--Newton saw Williams and a buddy, Tuskegee (Alabama) University offensive line coach Gregory Black, at a party hosted by Cowboys line coach Hudson Houck. Newton, however, said he did not see whom the men were with or when they left Houck's house.
Newton didn't have much to say about the case, but he couldn't help but deliver a few choice Newtonisms during the wide-ranging questioning.
On why, for instance, he's so friendly with the media: "One thing I do is get along with basically all the media, because I know one day somebody may try to accuse me of something. So I don't want them just eating me alive like they did Erik, with false accusations and all of that. So I'm pretty friendly with the media."
On just what he meant by "whores" in his famous quote about the Cowboys' "running a few whores" through their party house, the "white house" in Irving: "Well, you know, when I meant the word whores, I was just talking about females. You don't have to go out and buy no women. I mean, so I don't want people to think that I was saying prostitutes or nothing like that. Just women that got together and had fun with us."
On the number of times he went to the "white house:" "Twice."
On his choice of local newscasts: "I watch Channel 5 only when some bad shit happens to Cowboys. Because I know ya'll going to be on top of it."
Channel 5 lawyers have tried to question Newton, Irvin, and Cowboys Leon Lett and Charles Haley over the past month, and only Newton thus far has complied.
On May 15, Williams' lawyer asked the court to limit the kinds of questions Channel 5's lawyers can ask, as well as seal the entire record--things like Newton's deposition--from public view.
Channel 5 lawyer Leon Carter says he will be fighting that request when it comes up at a hearing later this month, at least as it applies to material provided by Williams, Irvin, and their close friends.
Ginsberg and company have been taking plenty of shots at his clients in press conferences and in their legal pleadings, Carter complains. "If the plaintiff's attorneys want to continue to publicly disparage our client and try this case in the media, they can do so," Carter says. "We will not stoop to their level, but we will respond to media inquiries."
Ginsberg did not return repeated phone calls.
The kinds of things Channel 5's lawyers have been asking for in their pre-trial discovery are clearly meant to turn up the heat on Williams, and now Irvin.
Cowboys witnesses, for instance, were asked to bring to their depositions "lewd novelty devices used by Erik Williams." An accompanying definition list describes those as "dildos, vibrators, or sex toys of any description."
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They were also asked to bring "all documents related to sexual intercourse between Erik Williams and any other person and all documents related to use by Erik Williams of a controlled substance."
Questions put in writing to Williams include several interesting "requests for admissions": "Admit that during your career with the Dallas Cowboys you have tested positive for illegal drugs...Admit that during your career with the Dallas Cowboys you have admitted to various individuals that you have failed drug tests."
Williams also was asked to "identify the individuals...with whom (Williams) has placed bets and/or gambled on college and professional sports."
Williams has not yet responded to the written questions from Channel 5's lawyer.