Deshaun Watson faces new lawsuit; one withdraws and 20 add names to their cases
Another woman filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday against Deshaun Watson, adding to a flurry of developments this week in the escalating legal battle over whether the NFL quarterback engaged in sexual misconduct during therapy sessions.
►Twenty of the 22 previous plaintiffs who filed suit against Watson have attached their names to their sexual misconduct allegations against him. All previously filed suit under the pseudonym Jane Doe.
►One of the 22 women withdrew her case against the Houston Texans quarterback “for now,” citing privacy and security concerns. That woman stated she “reserves the right to refile this case once such concerns are addressed,” according to court documents filed in her case. She is the only one to have withdrawn, with the other remaining Jane Doe expected to attach her name to her lawsuit this week.
►Then on Wednesday, a new plaintiff became the 23rd woman to file a lawsuit against Watson in Harris County, Texas, according to court filings there. The woman is identified by name and described as a freelance make-up artist. She stated Watson contacted her via Instagram for a massage, then caused her to touch his genitals on one occasion and ejaculated onto her on another occasion at Watson’s house last year.
“Plaintiff was initially excited to have defendant Watson as a client, and hoped her would refer her more clients because he was high-profile,” her suit states. “Instead, she now feels ashamed, embarrassed, deeply distressed and confused by Watson’s manipulating the massage and her into sexual coercion.”
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, has said the claims are false. Last week he also said there were "sometimes consensual encounters" during Watson's massage sessions.
That came after one of the plaintiffs – Ashley Solis – became the first one to reveal her identity and speak publicly about her case last week, saying Watson was “my assaulter and my harasser.” Hardin then went to court to try to force the rest of the women to reveal their identities, saying it wasn’t fair to Watson’s defense for them to remain anonymous.
The attorney for the women, Tony Buzbee, responded with a statement Tuesday evening.
“It appears the Watson team thinks that if these courageous women are forced to identify themselves, they would slink away and not pursue this matter,” said a statement from Buzbee, who represents all 23 women. “Watson and his counsel badly miscalculated. Due to the bravery of Ashley Solis to come forward publicly, and despite the death threats she has experienced, these women are now emboldened.”
The women are described in the lawsuits as massage therapists, estheticians and fitness, beauty and wellness professionals. Many alleged Watson contacted them via Instagram to arrange for their services and then exposed himself to them and caused them to touch his genitals. Most of the alleged incidents took place in the Houston area, where Watson lives.
“Never, at any time, under any circumstances ... did this young man ever engage in anything that was not mutually desired by the other party,” Hardin said.
He called the filing of anonymous lawsuits “a new model for extortion.”
The women seek compensatory damages in their cases, all filed since March 16. The Houston Police are investigating at least one complaint involving Watson, 25, but declined to give further details.
The NFL also is investigating the matter and could suspend the quarterback depending on its findings. Last week, Nike became the first major sponsor to publicly distance itself from Watson amid these allegations.
After his firm filed its 23rd lawsuit Wednesday, Buzbee released a statement saying the cases are now consolidated in one court.
"These brave women now feel emboldened and will not be intimidated," Buzbee stated. "As said before many times, we are proud to represent these women to seek justice on their behalf and stand up for survivors everywhere. Time’s up."
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org