The bloody truth

A Dallas County jury may soon get to decide if Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer is an insensitive buffoon who thinks all strapping young black men play football.

But the verdict is already in on Switzer's alcohol consumption: He prefers Cabernet with dinner, because Scotch makes the Bootlegger's Boy bleed.

The truth wasn't easy to obtain.
On June 24, 1996, Switzer spent more than two hours talking about his urinary tract, drinking preferences, and locker-room lingo with rookie civil litigator Eduardo Lucio.

At the time, Lucio was taking Switzer's sworn deposition as part of a civil lawsuit that two of Lucio's clients--Randy Mayes and Stephan Bolton--filed against Switzer in 1995. The two Austin men claim that a drunken Switzer physically and verbally assaulted them on October 22, 1994, during a confrontation inside the lobby of the courtly Melrose Hotel in Oak Lawn.

The incident, which didn't result in any arrests or criminal charges, has snowballed into a lawsuit that is set for jury trial this week before Dallas County Judge Jay Patterson.

According to police reports and court filings, the basic facts of the case are these:

Bolton and Mayes were leaving the hotel just after midnight when they crossed paths with Switzer, who was with friends Bill and Sharon Pyeatt, and Becky Buwick. Switzer, being a sociable kind of guy, couldn't resist the opportunity to yuck it up with a couple of strangers.

After crouching into a "football stance," Switzer put his hand on Mayes' left shoulder, clapped him in the stomach, and said, "You big son of a bitch. You look like Alvin Harper. You probably could play for me."

Or at least that's what Switzer remembers. Mayes told police that Switzer "punched" him and called him a "black motherfucker." Switzer says he may have called Mayes a black motherfucker, but only later, after Bolton and Mayes threatened to sue.

Either way, Mayes and Bolton were offended and called the police, who arrived and attempted to convince Switzer to apologize, according to a police report. In his attempt to explain to the officers what happened, Switzer re-enacted the incident and, not surprisingly, reoffended Mayes and Bolton. Bolton, who noted that he was working for the Ann Richards gubernatorial campaign, said he and Mayes were going to sue Switzer, who replied, "I'm gonna have your fucking job."

Everyone left in a huff, with Switzer muttering something about "as much as I do for young people," and Bolton and Mayes wondering where a white guy in Switzer's position gets off acting that way.

The case could easily qualify as a textbook example for law students on when not to sue a celebrity, especially if the point is to make money.

In January, Judge Patterson ordered Bolton and Mayes to pay a combined $3,750 in costs for abusing the judicial process, particularly the "discovery period" in which they, in part, did not identify their fact witnesses in a timely manner. Bolton and Mayes have ignored the judge's order and, even though sheriff's deputies may soon seize their personal property for payment, are still proceeding with their case.

"It's really become a matter of principle for them, more than anything else. They feel they've been abused by the system," says Lucio, who adds that his clients believe they are victims of a racist assault, and they want to prove their point.

Bolton and Mayes, who were not injured during the confrontation, are nonetheless asking for punitive damages for the physical and mental suffering they've supposedly endured for the last two years. (Switzer attorney Brad Gahm calls the lawsuit a "ridiculous" attempt to soak a celebrity for money. Bolton and Mayes could not be reached for comment.)

Switzer may not be the "world's leading nonracist," as he has claimed in the past. But Lucio is also quickly proving that he's no Racehorse Haynes.

While the lawsuit portends little in the way of groundbreaking legal doctrine, there is something to be said for its entertainment value. Most notably, Switzer was forced to submit to questioning--under oath--by Lucio during the discovery process.

Excerpts from the deposition, taken in June, tell us more than we might want to know about Switzer.

Early in the deposition, Lucio attempted to establish how much Switzer had to drink that fateful night at the Melrose Hotel:

Lucio: ...on this Friday, October 21, 1994, did you have any drinks when you first arrived at your apartment and Ms. Becky Buwick was there?

Switzer: No.
Lucio: Do you keep alcohol or liquor in your house?
Switzer: In that apartment? No.
Lucio: No? No beer or anything in the refrigerator?
Switzer: No, I don't drink beer.
Lucio: You don't drink beer?
Switzer: No.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley