DALLAS (CN) – Because Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones allegedly paid a woman hush money, sex-assault claims stemming from a 2009 incident are not too late, her attorney said Friday.
Jana Weckerly, of Ardmore, Okla., sued Jones and the Cowboys on Sept. 8. She claims to have taken the racy photos of Jones with two other women at a Dallas hotel that made headlines when leaked in August. One of the photographs shows Jones grabbing the chest of an unidentified blonde woman from behind. Another image shows Jones holding an unidentified dark-haired woman’s face against his crotch.
Weckerly accuses Jones of touching her buttocks and breasts several times the night of June 30, 2009. She says he also “forcibly kissed” her without consent and forced her to watch him receive oral sex, among other things. Jones and the team threatened, bullied and intimidated her into keeping quiet “or else,” the complaint alleges. In an amended complaint filed Monday, Weckerly further alleged hush money was sent to her bank account from 2009 through July 2013 to stop her from going to police or suing.
The statute of limitations in Texas on Weckerly’s sexual assault claim is five years, and it is only two years for her intentional infliction of emotion distress and negligence claims. Jones’ attorneys have argued all three claims are barred based on the June 30, 2009, date of the alleged assault.
At a hearing Friday morning on the defendants’ motion to dismiss, Weckerly’s attorney, Thomas Bowers, told Dallas County Judge Dale B. Tillery the conspiracy “continued the tort.”
“My client was intimidated into keeping quiet or else, bullied into believing she would be in trouble,” Bowers said. “She was also paid money, you honor, that she did not ask for. She was also paid money to keep from going to police and not to file her lawsuit. She did what she was told.”
Weckerly was placed under “extreme duress,” Bowers said.
“If there was any situation to look at duress, this is it,” he said. “The defendants placed [my] client [in it] when they made these forced payments. Timed with threats, they tolled the statute of limitations.”
Gregory Shamoun, the attorney representing both Jones and the Cowboys, retorted that “on its face, there are no facts in the lawsuit” that toll the statute of limitations for Weckerly’s three claims.
“Receiving [the hush money], which we vehemently deny, is not a tort,” Shamoun said. “What is the cause of action here? There is no cause of action in tort for a cover-up or for paying her.”
Tillery interrupted Shamoun, pointing out the alleged hush money goes to the conspiracy alleged by Bowers, but Shamoun said “for there to be a conspiracy, there must be an underlying act.”
Jones’ personal attorney, Levi McCathern, and his law practice, have since been added as defendants in the lawsuit. He was present at the hearing representing himself. McCathern told the judge the Bowers’ arguments “literally create a different statute of limitations for every defendant in the state,” that there would no longer be a “fixed point in time” to reference and “completely destroys the point of the statute of limitations.”
“There is obviously not a conspiracy, but if [the allegations] were true, the most active member is Weckerly,” McCathern said. “She’s the one that got the money. There’s no allegations that every four years she had a gun held to her head. It’s insane to say there was a cover up when you’re the one benefiting from it. It doesn’t make any sense … no reasonable person could believe this.”
Shamoun added Bowers has put forth no “facts about intimidation” and disputed his claims of duress.
Pointing to the gallery, Shamoun asked “if I give everyone 100 dollars, how am I putting them under duress?”
Tillery pointed out that Weckerly alleges she was required to sign papers without legal counsel and her pictures were allegedly smashed.
“But that it was over five years ago,” McCathern said. “I would have had to follow this woman for five years and continually keep her under duress.”
As all this transpired, about 25 members of the media packed the courtroom gallery. Tillery said he would allow the cameras into the hearing so the media would not have to shoot through the window in the courtroom door. He did not allow audio recordings, however.
McCathern has denounced the allegations as “completely false” and a “money grab.” Jones will “vigorously contest” the lawsuit, he said on Sept. 9.
“The legal complaint is unsupported by facts or evidence of any kind,” McCathern said at the time. “This is nothing more than an attempt to embarrass and extort Jerry Jones. This is a shakedown by a lawyer who is a solo practitioner just trying to make a name for himself. The alleged incidents would have been more than five years old.”
The serious nature of the “baseless” allegations also prompted Jones to contact law enforcement, McCathern added.
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