By Tim Graham
The attorney for Mario Williams' ex-fiancee told The Buffalo News his client has no desire to tear down the Buffalo Bills defender, that Erin Marzouki's only objective is defending herself against nasty allegations meant to publically humiliate her.
I spoke with Tony Buzbee, attorney for Erin Marzouki, to clarify some of the elements to the case that have led many to wonder whether or not folks should be worried about Williams.
To recap: Williams sued Marzouki in Harris County, Texas, for the return of a 10.04-carat diamond engagement ring valued at $785,000; Williams said some rather unflattering things about Marzouki in the lawsuit; Marzouki responded with a court filing that didn't make Williams look too sweet; her attorney released a series of texts allegedly from Williams to Marzouki that say Williams was taking narcotics without anyone's knowledge and suggest he was having suicidal thoughts.
On that last point, the story moved from merely pulling back a curtain on the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history to a potentially serious situation that involves multiple front-burner issues facing pro sports, especially with the Junior Seau, Jovan Belcher and Derek Boogaard tragedies fresh in everyone's minds.
Buzbee, however, insisted this is no smear campaign. He said his job is to defend his client against a bully who swore under oath Marzouki is of lowdown character.
"He called her a thief in a public pleading," Buzbee told me Sunday. "He said in a public pleading that she never had any intention of marrying him. He said in a public pleading that she had been the one to break off the relationship. He said in a public pleading that the only reason she was with him was to get his money.
"He swore that to be true. Those are some pretty damaging things to say about someone when you know good and well the pleading that you filed is going to be picked up by the press."
Buzbee said Williams tried to reconcile with Marzouki as recently as March, but he got upset when she refused. Then he sued her.
"She learned he had sued her from the newspaper," Buzbee said. "Imagine being a professional, and one of our colleagues saying, 'I read about you in the newspaper. Mario called you a thief.' Think about that."
A phone call to Williams' attorney, Monica S. Orlando, was not immediately returned. Williams' agent, Ben Dogra, also has not returned messages.
The Bills have declined to comment, stating that they have a policy not to address personal issues.
As bad as this saga already has been for Williams' personal reputation, it still could get substantially worse.
Friday's mediation hearing was unsuccessful. Buzbee said he filed a request to examine Williams' cell phone, a standard part of discovery in such a case. Williams has 30 days to surrender the phone. What Williams texted to other people could be awkward.
Buzbee also explained -- a point of contention among Williams supporters who believe Marzouki preserved those texts about drugs and suicide to use against him someday -- that she deleted those texts. Buzbee said a forensics expert recovered them from her phone.
"She didn't save those texts," Buzbee said. "When you delete a text, it's not deleted. It's permanently there in your phone. I had to hire somebody to take those files off it."
As for the personal nature of those particular texts, Buzbee claimed he wanted to provide only a glimpse into Williams' behavioral state when it came to his relationship with Marzouki.
"He vacillates between periods of deep lows and being very high on life," Buzbee said. "During those low periods, he doesn't want to be in the relationship. I feel like this is a soap opera, but this is the life he lives."
The texts Buzbee released were from Nov. 11, the day the Bills played the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass. Williams allegedly told Marzouki he had taken three hydrocodone pills without anyone's knowledge before the game and would take two more on the plane ride back to Buffalo.
Hydrocodone is a narcotic pain reliever. Pain-killer abuse is a major NFL issue.
Williams also allegedly wrote, "No money in the world should leave me with suicidal thoughts," and "I need to go back n my shell. There's no telling what Ill do to myself at this point. I'm sry Ill disappear from now on."
Marzouki apparently found Williams' suicide references credible enough to discuss staging an intervention at the time.
In a series of tweets seemingly in reference to the texts Buzbee released, Williams didn't deny what has been reported while declaring nobody would bring him down.
In response to a query from The Buffalo News about the texts, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello replied, "Our Total Wellness program is designed to respond to situations where a player can use professional assistance. It is done confidentially."
"Hydrocodone is not my issue. The Buffalo Bills are not my issue," Buzbee said. "My issue is, 'You said she broke up with you. Wrong. You said she's a thief. Wrong. You said she had no intention of marrying you. Wrong. You said she was only interested in the money. Wrong.' "
In Texas, when a boyfriend breaks off an engagement, he is not entitled to get the ring back.
Furthermore, Buzbee asserted, Williams gave her the ring multiple times (because he repeatedly separated) and the second time was on her birthday. That also could be a problem for Williams because it can be argued the ring was a gift.
"He loses this case in about five different ways," Buzbee said. "He gave it to her once on her birthday, broke up with her three more times after that and never asked for it.
"I have texts from him that tell her to keep the ring."
Buzbee laughed at the notion of Marzouki being a "gold-digger," noting that if she truly were, then she would have married Williams, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract after their first engagement.
"People say, 'She should give the ring back,' " Buzbee said. "You don't stay with somebody for over five years and put them through all that turmoil he put her through and then file a public pleading, calling her a thief and think she's just going to roll over.
"Our effort is not to embarrass him. It's to defend ourselves. You want to call somebody you've been with for five years a thief, what do you expect to get in return?"