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Crime

The End of a Playboy

As developer and reality show star Bill Hutchinson faces accusations of sexually assaulting young women, he has lost control of his carefully crafted persona.
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The End of a Playboy

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On July 6, Highland Park police arrested 63-year-old William Lewald Hutchinson—developer of the Virgin Hotels Dallas and star of the reality TV show Marrying Millions—on one felony charge of sexual assault of a minor.

According to the police affidavit, Hutchinson assaulted a 17-year-old girl who had been living at his estate on Lakeside Drive. A few days later, additional charges alleging rape and battery of that young woman and another teenager were filed in Laguna Beach, where Hutchinson owns property. Two civil lawsuits followed.

To some casual observers, the accusations might not have been shocking. Hutchinson, a man whose passions belie his age, projected a public persona of a playboy and acolyte of billionaire space cowboy Sir Richard Branson. He has long, gray hair and wears a uniform of white jeans, unbuttoned dress shirts, and flashy sports coats. Marrying Millions, which Lifetime recently erased from its website, made a spectacle of the 40-year age gap between Hutchinson and his 23-year-old fiancée, Briana Ramirez, whom he met when she was 18 and working as a restaurant hostess. He founded Dunhill Partners, a billion-dollar real estate investment firm, but appears equally proud of the time he got to play drums with the Stone Temple Pilots, sitting in for the song “Sex Type Thing” at the band’s 2018 performance at a Carrollton festival. Twice divorced, he posted images to social media of himself flashing a Cheshire cat smile while wrapping his arms around young women.

But to those who have known Hutchinson the longest, the accusations made no sense. After his arrest, as Hutchinson stepped down as CEO of Dunhill and distanced himself from the Virgin Hotels, friends and associates quietly reached out with messages of support and encouragement. When I spoke to some of these friends, they expressed disbelief. Sure, from the outside, Hutchinson’s life might look a bit unconventional, but he was one of the gentlest and kindest men they knew. They shared stories of him bailing friends out of financial trouble, mentoring young entrepreneurs, opening his home to guests, and struggling to hold together his large, mixed family. If anything, Hutchinson’s generosity, they said, was matched only by his naiveté. His accusers were just looking for a payday.

“He’s innocent, and he’s stupid when it comes to women,” Hutchinson’s ex-wife Kathleen told me. “But he’s not Epstein. He’s not Weinstein. He’s not that kind of person.”

These two images of Bill Hutchinson—the private family man and the flamboyant playboy—come together in his house on Lakeside. The property encompasses an entire block on Highland Park’s doorstep, and it was once dubbed the most beautiful home in Dallas by D Home. It was designed in 1924 by the architect Anton Korns for the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt. From the street it is impressive, impenetrable, with two stone lions guarding a portico. And yet its grounds are familiar to the hundreds of people who have attended the Hugh Hefner-inspired backyard pajama parties Hutchinson used to throw on his birthday. The master bedroom boasts a cathedral-vaulted ceiling and stained-glass windows, as well as a stripper pole in the center of the room.

Unlike his home’s first owner, Hutchinson does not come from a Dallas dynasty. His parents were Methodist missionaries. When he was 6, they moved from Detroit to Monterrey, Mexico, where Hutchinson spent most of his childhood. On Marrying Millions, Hutchinson often reminds the cameras of his Mexican youth as he chats in fluent Spanish to housekeepers or attempts to make inroads with his fiancée’s Mexican American family. According to his first wife, Kathleen, Hutchinson’s childhood was shaped by an affectionate and fun-loving father, whom Hutchinson adored, and a brilliant, disciplined, emotionally aloof mother. Hutchinson headed to Dallas, where he attended SMU and graduated in 1980 with a degree in real estate and finance. At some point after his time there, his father had an affair, and his parents divorced.

In Reality: Marrying Millions made a spectacle out of the 40-year age gap between Hutchinson and Briana Ramirez, who was 18 when they met. Lifetime has since erased the show from its website.

In the early 1980s, Dallas was the place to be for a young, ambitious man looking to make a fortune in real estate. Initially, though, Hutchinson could find a job only as a commission-based retail leasing broker. To make the position more interesting, he pretended it was a game, mixing and matching tenants and vacant spaces like puzzle pieces on a table. He discovered he had a knack for closing deals. In 1984, he started his own company, Dunhill Partners, choosing the name, as he told the Dallas Business Journal in 2014, because it “sounded old and stable and wealthy, like it had been around forever instead of a broke kid that just got out of SMU.”

It was impossible not to make a bundle leasing and selling real estate in Dallas in the 1980s, and by the end of the decade, Hutchinson had built a small fortune. He married a pretty young Southwest Airlines flight attendant. Then the savings and loan crisis hit. “We got back from our honeymoon,” Kathleen says, “and he said to me, ‘Honey, I’m broke.’ ”

The young couple downsized into a house in University Park, which they nicknamed the “Sugar Shack,” and began a family. These were difficult but happy years. Hutchinson and Kathleen had three daughters. Kathleen kept her job at Southwest, and as he worked to rebuild his real estate company, Hutchinson took a second job as a limousine driver. Kathleen says her ex-husband enjoyed the limo work, particularly when he got to banter with celebrities. There were some awkward times when he would go to the airport to pick up a client and run into one his real estate investors. Hutchinson would hide his face so the investors didn’t see that their broker was moonlighting as a chauffeur. He eventually rebuilt his real estate company.

These days, not many people will speak on the record about Hutchinson. They don’t want their names to appear in an article about the alleged sexual abuse of a minor. But on background, people who have worked with Hutchinson say that what made him so good was his charisma and an ability to put people at ease and quickly earn their trust.

“Bill is a brand in a way,” a longtime friend and business associate told me. “He had a likability factor that gave people comfort. He’s a guy who has managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat many times in his career.”

Hutchinson brought that same confidence to his personal life. He had an easy way with women. Kathleen discovered that her husband had an affair after they had emerged on the Dallas society scene. They moved into a house on Beverly Drive, and Kathleen got involved with the Cattle Baron’s Ball. On Sundays, the attractive pair and their three daughters filed into the pews at Highland Park United Methodist Church. “The year that Bill and I got divorced,” Kathleen says, “they had us written up in PaperCity or some magazine as the ‘It Couple of Dallas.’ ”

The divorce devastated Kathleen. She moved to Laguna Beach and didn’t speak to Hutchinson for about 15 years. During that time, they shared custody of their daughters, who lived with their dad as they finished high school. But in their own way, the family stayed close. Hutchinson also purchased a house in Laguna Beach to be near the girls when they were with their mom. After Hutchinson moved into the house on Lakeside, Kathleen and the girls moved into a condo a couple of blocks away on Oak Lawn.

Hutchinson’s annual birthday pajama parties were attended by a mix of Dallas society, trendsetters, strippers, and porn stars. All along, he continued to expand his real estate empire.

As a single man, Hutchinson flung himself into Dallas nightlife. “I think for Bill, when we got divorced, he felt like he had a free ticket to party,” Kathleen says. Pioneering Dallas restaurateurs Alberto Lombardi and Mico Rodriguez were his tenants and friends. Hutchinson invested with them in new restaurants and bars, opening the Lemon Bar in the West Village in 2010. There he partnered with a college student to help pack the spot with young women from local universities.

He met his second wife, Kandis, around this time and married the 25-year-old in 2008. Kandis had a daughter from a previous relationship, and the couple had a son together. Kandis was the one who installed the stripper pole in the bedroom, and the couple appeared in society pages for attending events like the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS gala and for throwing Hutchinson’s annual birthday pajama parties, which were attended by a mix of Dallas society, trendsetters, strippers, and porn stars.

All along, Hutchinson continued to expand his real estate empire. In the interview with the Business Journal, Hutchinson said the deal that catapulted Dunhill Partners into a new level of investor class was the purchase of Lincoln Square in Arlington in 2011, which the company flipped for a profit of around $40 million. But according to one local real estate investor who spoke on condition of anonymity, Hutchinson was still known within the industry as a “merchant buyer”—a guy who bought properties, leased them up, and sold them—and not as a major player on land deals or ground-up developments. “In a certain sense, he kept a low profile,” the investor said. “If you weren’t in retail, you didn’t know him because he never did the big projects.”

That changed in 2014, when Dunhill Partners led an investment group that acquired 33 acres and nearly 700,000 square feet in buildings in the Design District. It was by far the largest real estate deal in Dallas that year. And the firm kept making news. Dunhill soon announced that it was partnering with Hutchinson’s business hero, Richard Branson, to bring Dallas a Virgin Hotel. Hutchinson installed public art around the Design District, and, in 2019, his company added the W Hotel to its portfolio. It was clear that he saw the urban district—stuffed with designer showrooms, art galleries, high-rise apartments, popular bars and restaurants—as a platform to merge his professional life with his public persona.

“I think that the Design District is going to go down as my legacy,” Hutchinson told D CEO magazine in 2016. “Of all the deals I’ve done throughout all the years, this has really come home to me as what I’m most passionate about and most excited about. We plan on making this the coolest destination in the city.”

In late 2019, as excitement built for the opening of Virgin Hotels Dallas, things were not going smoothly. According to former Virgin Hotels staff members who spoke on condition of anonymity, contractors hired by Dunhill did not appear to have experience working on a project that large. The lighting and sound system in the hotel’s restaurant and fourth-floor pool deck did not function properly, and the plumbing in the restaurant’s kitchen did not match professional standards. As workers raced to finish the hotel, matters were complicated by the constant meddling of Hutchinson.

Bill Hutchinson at his annual pajama party
Man About Town: Hutchinson and guests at one of his infamous pajama parties.

Staff complained to me that he insisted on being involved in nearly every decision, no matter how trivial. He was domineering during tastings, had input on how loud the music should be played in the restaurant, passed along résumés of young models with little hotel experience to managers in charge of hiring, and told employees overseeing the hotel’s entertainment offerings that he wanted to attract a pretty crowd and staff. When he spotted a female employee who didn’t meet his standards, he snapped a photo of her and texted it to a staff member. One employees recalls the text reading: “Really? This is the best we could do?” Virgin had its own people whose job it was to create the guest experience, but here was the money guy trying to control every decision.

Virgin staff I spoke to said they would brace themselves when they learned Hutchinson and his friends planned to party at the hotel. “You knew that you were going to be pulled in many directions and catering to his needs when he was coming in,” one former staff member said. “And you knew that there would probably be a little disruption of the peace in one way or another.”

Another distraction was created by Hutchinson’s reality TV show, which shot a number of scenes at the Virgin. It was reality TV that had helped Hutchinson establish his first connections with Branson’s businesses. In 2011, Branson-owned Virgin Produced approached Hutchinson about a show called Keeping Up With the Hutchinsons, which was pitched as a Kardashian knockoff. Hutchinson was game, but after two weeks of shooting, his three eldest daughters backed out. Hutchinson partnered with Virgin again to produce the KAABOO festival at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in 2019. The sparsely attended concert turned out to be a Fyre Festival-like fiasco, and Hutchinson, Dunhill, Virgin, and KAABOO organizers are still tangled in a legal battle over investment losses.

Lifetime approached Hutchinson after he began dating Briana Ramirez. Marrying Millions mined for its content in the age gaps of several sugar daddy relationships featured on the show. In the first episode, at a dinner party, a female friend of Hutchinson’s accuses Briana of gold digging. Later in the season, Kathleen goes out to lunch with Briana in Highland Park Village and warns that her ex-husband is a serial cheater who isn’t serious about their relationship. By the end of the show, Hutchinson and Briana’s story arc resolves itself in an over-the-top backyard proposal in which the 62-year-old showers the pool and grounds of his Lakeside house with flower petals and promises to remain forever faithful to his then-22-year-old girlfriend. The show earned Hutchinson appearances on Good Morning America and Dr. Phil.

When I asked friends of his why they thought Hutchinson agreed to do the show, they said that in the aftermath of the recent sexual abuse allegations, he has come to regret it. But at the time, it fit into his ambitions of becoming more than just a Dallas real estate guy.

“Perhaps he, over time, viewed himself as a brand, and the personal and the professional tend to merge,” one friend said. “He’s unconventional in his methods, from his physical appearance—long hair, no suit, marches to the beat of his own drum. I think that’s how he viewed it: as a vehicle to perhaps increase the brand.”

Virgin Hotel Dallas
Hutchinson brought Virgin Hotels to the Design District. Elizabeth Lavin

Returning to Marrying Millions now that Hutchinson faces charges of sexual abuse of a minor, what jumps out to me is the unbalanced power dynamic between Hutchinson and Briana. Whenever tension arises in the relationship, Hutchinson whisks Briana off on a lavish trip. When she objects to a permanent move to Miami, where he owns a house, citing her desire to stay near her family, he packs her bag and moves them anyway. There are times when Briana appears to understand that she has no control over her partner and that the wealth gap in their relationship is a trap. Breaking up with Hutchinson would mean more than ending a relationship; it would mean walking away from a life and standard of living that she will likely never know again.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable instance of Hutchinson overriding Briana comes when he insists on throwing her a birthday party in the backyard of the Lakeside house. As Briana feared, the mixing of Hutchinson’s Dallas society friends and her working-class family generates tension. Kathleen and Briana’s mom get into a chilly standoff. Then Hutchinson drags Briana onto a stage for a toast.

“Look how beautiful she is,” Hutchinson says, before bringing attention to Briana’s outfit. She is wearing white pants and a white blouse over a multihued, sequined bra. Hutchinson grabs the blouse and pulls it back, urging their families and friends to admire his fiancée’s undergarment. Briana, mortified, grabs the blouse and covers herself.

“It’s OK. You’re 22 now,” Hutchinson protests. “It’s legal!”

In Marrying Millions, it looks like Hutchinson and Briana live in a big, empty house. But by 2020, the place was filling up. The newest member of the household was a 16-year-old Highland Park High School junior who is referred to as Jane Doe 2 in the lawsuit she filed in a Dallas County district court. Chris Panatier, Jane Doe 2’s lawyer, says his client could not speak to media because of the ongoing criminal investigation, but he said that her lawsuit lays out the narrative of his client’s allegation in great detail in order to “lay the groundwork for the credibility of the claim.” What follows is Jane’s version of her story as it is presented in the lawsuit. (Trigger warning for sexual abuse.)

Jane became friends with Hutchinson’s stepdaughter—Kandis Hutchinson’s child from a previous relationship—after her family moved to Highland Park. She was the new girl in school, and her family had moved frequently in recent years. Jane, Hutchinson’s stepdaughter, and another classmate became inseparable. They had sleepovers at the Lakeside house and vacationed at Hutchinson’s other homes in Laguna Beach and Miami. When Jane learned that her family was moving again, this time to Fort Worth, she protested. She finally had a life, and now her parents were going to take it away. Hutchinson intervened. If Jane’s parents were open to it, she could stay at his house, at least to finish out the school year. Hutchinson made another offer: he could take legal guardianship of their daughter. Jane’s family declined.

Hutchinson was the legal guardian of his stepdaughter’s other friend who lived with them. People who know him didn’t find this situation odd. They say it’s more evidence of his largesse. Kathleen pointed to the fact that Hutchinson’s stepdaughter chose to live there. “To the outside person, it seems weird,” Kathleen says. “The stepdaughter wanted to live with him over the mother. What does that say? From the time she was 2 years old, he said, ‘She’s in my will. She’s my daughter.’ My point is, Bill is not thinking like Jeffrey Epstein. Bill is like this with someone that is in need. That’s how much the kids all love Bill.”

At first, living in the house on Lakeside felt like a fairytale. Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the girls attended school online, which meant they could do it from anywhere. They traveled with Hutchinson to Laguna Beach, Miami, and a resort in Arizona. Instagram and TikTok posts show the girls posing in sunny locales copying dance memes or hanging out on the beach. According to the lawsuit, they were allowed to drink in Hutchinson’s homes, and Briana gave them marijuana. In April, as the school year wound down, Hutchinson even helped Jane get a job as a pool attendant and server at the Virgin’s Pool Club.

According to the lawsuit, the fairytale ended on a trip to Laguna Beach. The teenagers were in a hot tub with Hutchinson, and he began to massage Jane’s feet. He pressed her feet into his crotch, and when she tried to pull away, the 6-foot-5 Hutchinson picked her up and put her on his lap. She could feel him through his shorts.

One morning, she woke to find Hutchinson watching her sleep. Another morning, he was groping her chest and had his hand in her pants. By the end of the trip, he had penetrated her with his finger. He told her that he “could not wait until she turned 17,” the legal age of consent in Texas. One night, he texted her and asked her to come into his bedroom, but she refused. The next morning, Hutchinson made her delete the text.

Hutchinson maintained a residence on Lakeside (left) for years and, until recently, also owned a house in Miami (right), in addition to a property in Laguna Beach.

On this particular trip, Briana had not joined them, so Jane hoped that when they returned to Dallas, Hutchinson might leave her alone. He didn’t, according to her lawsuit. He went into her room and offered her massages that escalated to groping. Once Hutchinson asked Jane if she “wanted an orgasm before school.” The next time they went to Laguna Beach, Briana did travel with them, but that didn’t stop Hutchinson from sunbathing naked. When the teenagers walked out on a balcony and saw him, he said they could join him.

According to her lawsuit, Jane didn’t tell her family or friends about what was happening. She felt confused and ashamed, but also indebted to Hutchinson. He privately told her that she was “the new Bri” and that he could pay for her college and that she would never have to work again. “To a sociable, naïve 16-year-old, this was a compelling arrangement,” the lawsuit reads, “something that Hutchinson knew and exploited for his own deviant benefit.”

After Jane Doe 2’s accusations became public, more women came forward with similar stories. Michelle Simpson Tuegel, a lawyer who also represented survivors abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, says she has been contacted by several women who claim to have been attacked by Hutchinson, some detailing incidents that date back more than a decade. In each account, Simpson Tuegel says, there is a pattern of behavior by the alleged abuser. “They are looking for that opportunity and seize on someone who is in a vulnerable place,” she says.

Only one of these other women has filed a lawsuit thus far. She is referred to as Jane Doe 1 and is a college student who first connected with Hutchinson through social media. She studies business at a Texas university and reached out to Hutchinson with the hope that he might open doors for her career. According to her lawsuit, Hutchinson asked for her résumé and then sent a car 100 miles to pick her up from school and bring her to the Virgin.

At the hotel, they talked and had drinks. The student was drunk by the time Hutchinson invited her back to an apartment near the hotel, where he made his move. According to the lawsuit, she tried to deflect and suggested they go for a swim in the pool. Hutchinson led her into a bedroom, pushed her down on the bed, and climbed on top of her. Hutchinson groped the student and forced her hand onto his penis. At some point during the attack, she hit record on her phone.

In shaky video that has surfaced on YouTube, she can be heard shouting, “Get off me!” and telling Hutchinson, “You can’t hold me down.”

Hutchinson’s voice is clear on the recording. “Are you a virgin?” he asks. “Tell me. Tell me.”

One night in the summer of 2019, a woman named Erica stepped outside onto the pool deck of the Virgin Hotels Dallas to get some air. Two drunk guys approached and began hitting on her. She was not in the mood. Erica had gone out that night with a few girls she hardly knew, and they were now inside, getting drunk at the bar. She was thinking about calling an Uber. She tried to blow the guys off, and then an older man swooped in. He was wearing linen pants and a loose-fitting button-down shirt and had a mess of long, gray hair.

“She’s with me,” the older man said.

“I’m not with you,” Erica protested.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

Erica didn’t know who anyone was in Dallas. She had recently moved to the city hoping to make a fresh start. In another city, she’d left behind a boyfriend and an extended family. She found a job, packed up her car, and moved sight unseen into a one-bedroom apartment in Uptown. But the escape brought loneliness. She tried to find friends through Bumble BFF, but it felt too much like online dating. She joined a pottery class to meet people. One night she went to Bottled Blonde in Deep Ellum, but Erica found the people she met to be superficial. “They were Dallas girls,” she says.

On the Virgin balcony, Hutchinson told Erica he owned the hotel. He told her to look out across the twinkling lights of the city at the W Hotel in the distance. “And do you see that over there?” he asked. “I own that hotel, too.”

Erica found Hutchinson more peculiar than impressive. When he asked for her phone number, she told him she had a boyfriend. He said they could be friends. Erica was tired; she wanted to go home. The old man seemed harmless enough, so she gave him her number.

“And that’s when it started,” she says. “I should have never given him my number.”

Erica is not the woman’s real name. Erica is also not one of the women who have been named in either the criminal charges or the lawsuits filed in August. She came forward to share her story with D Magazine because she believes it may shed light on one of the things that has baffled many of Hutchinson’s defenders who cannot reconcile the man they know and the man in the police reports. None of them encountered the Bill Hutchinson Erica met on the Virgin balcony that night.

“I think a lot of people portray him as a nice guy, a sweet person,” she says. “He’s really not that type of guy.”

About a week after they first met, Hutchinson asked Erica to join him at a dinner with a friend. Because a friend was going to be there, she didn’t think much of it. They met at a Mexican restaurant near Knox-Henderson, and Hutchinson introduced her to an older man he identified as a business partner. They had a couple of drinks, and Hutchinson regaled her with stories about his reality TV show and the time his favorite band let him sit in on drums. She found him entertaining. The only thing odd about the evening was that Hutchinson’s business partner abruptly took off during dinner and left the two of them alone.

About a week later, Hutchinson invited Erica to dinner again, this time at the Commons Club restaurant, inside the Virgin. He wanted her to meet another friend who was closer to her age and well connected in Dallas. Erica admits it was helpful to finally meet people, some of whom had interesting jobs in business and entertainment.

Not long after that, Erica heard about a party at the Virgin’s Pool Club. Hutchinson spotted her when she arrived and told her she could put on her bathing suit if she wanted. Erica didn’t feel comfortable stripping down in front of all the new people. She found a place to sit near the cabanas where Hutchinson was hanging out with his friends. He moved closer to her and put his hand on her thigh. “It felt weird,” she says.

As the evening stretched on, the crowd began to thin. Hutchinson told her that his friends planned to move the party to a room in the hotel and asked if she wanted to join them. Erica agreed, but when they went to the elevators, Hutchinson told her to go to reception and retrieve the key. She said Hutchinson’s name to the clerk and was handed a key. When they arrived at the room, it was empty. Erica thought Hutchinson’s friends must still be on their way but no one came. Hutchinson made his move. Erica deflected. He persisted.

Erica struggles to tell this part of her story. During our interview, she sits quietly for a moment and says she doesn’t want to describe everything in detail. One thing she remembers clearly is that when she told Hutchinson no, he replied, “Well, you’re already here.”

Bill Hutchinson portrait
Hutchinson, photographed in 2015, not long after his Dunhill Partners purchased properties in the Design District. Billy Surface

“I froze,” she says. “He’s a big guy.”

Afterward, Hutchinson acted as if nothing had happened, which made Erica begin to doubt herself. She also felt guilty. Had she done something that had inadvertently invited his advances? She felt betrayed.

“I had a boyfriend,” she says. “And he knew that.”

Erica thought she was finally making inroads in Dallas, but now everything felt strange. She thought meeting Hutchinson might eventually help her boyfriend meet people in Dallas. “I wanted to maintain this connection and maybe maintain a connection with his friends,” she says. “That’s one thing that I didn’t want to disconnect from.”

And so, after that horrible night at the Virgin, Erica took what happened and buried it somewhere inside of her, even though Hutchinson made it difficult to forget. In texts, he called her “Mi Amor.” He was pushier about meeting up. Eventually, Erica did go back to the Virgin. Hutchinson invited her to an afternoon party on the pool deck, and this time she brought a male friend. It was easy to pretend like nothing was off. Most of the afternoon, Hutchinson was surrounded by friends and hangers on, and Erica hung out with her friend at the pool. As they were getting ready to leave, Hutchinson asked Erica if she would join him for appetizers in the restaurant downstairs. She was hungry and said yes.

Erica remembers having a glass of white wine at the restaurant that evening. She had also had three vodkas earlier at the pool, which wasn’t a lot for her. The rest of the night is a blur. She remembers Hutchinson holding her up as they stumbled from the Virgin to an apartment building across the street. She remembers being inside an apartment. She remembers Bill on top of her. She remembers the pain she felt as Hutchinson sexually assaulted her. She remembers crumpling over naked in a shower and vomiting all over herself. And she remembers being afraid that he might walk in and see her, sick and naked and humiliated, washing vomit down the drain.

Through his lawyer Levi McCathern, Hutchinson denies all the charges and accusations that have been made against him. McCathern says his client could not speak to a reporter during a pending criminal investigation, but he forwarded some notes Hutchinson wrote.

“Mr. Hutchinson has received hundreds of supporting well wishes cards from friends, clients, tenants, and partners, who continue to stand with him and know that he is not capable of performing the acts that he has been accused of,” the notes read. “Mr. Hutchinson is an outgoing, peaceful, and friendly man who is charismatic, and is passionate about life, he is well loved by all who know him. William has maintained his innocence of these accusations and charges and looks forward to clearing his name and moving forward with Briana and their lives.”

McCathern told me that there were details unknown to the public about Hutchinson’s accusers, their characters, and their families that undermine their credibility. He suggested that they all were attempting to exploit Hutchinson’s vulnerable public persona for financial gain. He says his client passed a lie detector test about the alleged crimes, even though such tests are not considered reliable evidence and are not admissible in court in Texas. Friends I spoke with also believe that Hutchinson’s millions, rather than justice, are what his accusers are after. “It’s common sense,” the restaurateur Alberto Lombardi says. “He’s 63 years old. You don’t become that kind of person at 63 years old.”

Simpson Tuegel, Jane Doe 1’s attorney, says she has heard these arguments before. When I ask her how someone who lived such a public life could hide the crimes he’s accused of, she points to the sexual abuse crises in the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America and how it was precisely because the abusers were well regarded and trusted that they were able to operate with impunity. She also says that many of the women who have reached out to her have little to gain financially. Some don’t plan to file lawsuits but just want to share information to assist with the investigations. When questioning the credibility of survivors of sexual abuse, Simpson Tuegel says, don’t look at what they stand to gain but what these women risk by coming forward.

“Having your deposition taken, eventually testifying in court, handing over all your personal records—those are not things that anybody wants to do,” she says. “When you see the level of scrutiny and what these women have to go through to even to get through litigation in a case like this, that’s not something that is really worth any amount. Their privacy is often worth a lot more than that and what they ever get from any litigation.”

Perhaps he, over time, viewed himself as a brand, and the personal and the professional tend to merged one friend said. He’s unconventional in his methods, long hair, no suit, marches to the beat of his own drum.

Panatier, Jane Doe 2’s lawyer, says that his client has already begun to suffer the consequences of taking her story public. Her world of trips, mansions, yachts, and parties has evaporated. The teenagers, including Hutchinson’s stepdaughter, no longer live with him. “Her whole life was her social life, and I guess now she’s sort of a bit of a pariah,” Panatier says, adding that her family is well off and wouldn’t exploit their daughter for money. “Ask any 16-year-old, ‘Would you absolutely sabotage your social life, your whole life, to make an allegation that you weren’t even sure you could prove in the chance of making money?’ They wouldn’t do it.”

Erica tells me that it wasn’t until she read about Hutchinson’s arrest that she began to confront what had happened to her. For months, she bottled it up. When Hutchinson texted her, she made up excuses to not see him and eventually stopped responding. Instead, she began drinking heavily, partying, experimenting with drugs—anything she could do to numb herself. “I became a person I didn’t know,” she says.

During the pandemic, she saw a psychiatrist and talked about Hutchinson for the first time. The doctor prescribed anxiety medicine. She didn’t tell her boyfriend what had happened, even after he moved to Dallas in late 2020. She still felt guilty about what had happened. “I felt like I deceived him in some way, and I felt like I still was by not telling him the truth,” she says. “I thought he would react in a way that would be negative, and I also didn’t want to revisit it—and I still don’t.”

Whenever Erica did think about it, the shame and guilt came rushing back. She questioned herself. What did she remember? What had she done? Was she somehow to blame for what had happened? That began to change when she read about the other women who had accused Hutchinson. She was overwhelmed with a feeling of relief. She could trust herself again.

Erica broke down and told her boyfriend everything. He was understanding and supportive. Then she reached out to Simpson Tuegel. Erica didn’t think she had enough evidence to build a case against Hutchinson; she only wanted to talk to someone about her experience and to try to help the other cases. “I want other women who experience this and experience the shame and the guilt to know that it is not their fault that this happened,” she says. “He knew what he was doing.”

Simpson Tuegel says Erica was only one of several women who have reached out to her, and she expects to file Erica’s lawsuit this month. That means Erica will no longer be able to bury her memories of Bill Hutchinson. She knows that Hutchinson and his attorneys will find out who she is and will likely attack her character. They will press her with the very questions that have haunted her over the past year. But Erica also knows that it is only by answering those questions in court that she will be able get what she is looking for: finding her way back to who she was before she met Bill Hutchinson.

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Peter Simek

Peter Simek

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Peter Simek is arts editor with D Magazine where he writes about a broad range of topics, from visual art…