HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson was hit with his 16th lawsuit on Tuesday. Each lawsuit has been filed on behalf of "Jane Doe" victims who claim sexual misconduct from Watson during massage sessions.
Rusty Hardin, the attorney representing Watson, responded to the lawsuits on Tuesday. He said the attorney representing the plaintiffs, Tony Buzbee, "has orchestrated a circus-like atmosphere by using social media to publicize" the lawsuits "in a manner calculated to inflame the public and malign Deshaun’s otherwise sterling reputation."
"I believe that any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false," Hardin said.
Hardin said that in one case, Watson was actually a victim of blackmail when the accuser demanded $30,000 in exchange for her “indefinite silence” about what she stated was a consensual encounter.
In another lawsuit, Watson's accuser calls him a "serial predator" who contacted her through social media to arrange a massage appointment in Los Angeles. According to the lawsuit, after he exposed himself and asked her to touch him in inappropriate areas, Watson told the woman not to talk about the appointment.
Most of the accusations are very similar in nature. Some of the women say they were propositioned by Watson and others say they were forced to perform oral sex. Read more about the lawsuits here.
These are all civil lawsuits. Watson has not been charged with a crime but Buzbee said he was handing over affidavits and evidence to the Houston Police Department and Harris County District Attorney's Office for them to investigate.
Legal experts say Watson could be forced to testify if the cases make it to court, but he could plead the Fifth if there's a chance the civil allegations could turn into criminal charges. Most civil cases end with a settlement before a trial takes place, which means no one admits guilt. In most cases, both sides agree not to talk about what happened.
Hardin's full statement
"I want to emphasize at the outset that we and Deshaun recognize that sexual assault and harassment are not only unlawful, but morally wrong. It takes courage for women to come forward to report being mistreated, particularly when they attach their names to a lawsuit. We do not take these allegations lightly. However, fairness to the accused is equally as important.
"Opposing counsel has orchestrated a circus-like atmosphere by using social media to publicize 14 'Jane Doe' lawsuits during the past seven days in a manner calculated to inflame the public and malign Deshaun’s otherwise sterling reputation. In addition, the tactic of refusing our requests to confidentially provide the names of the plaintiffs so we can fully investigate their claims makes uncovering the truth extremely difficult. Anonymity is often necessary as a shield for victims but opposing counsel has used it as a sword to publicly humiliate Deshaun before the truth seeking process can even begin.
"I believe that any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false. And in the one case in which we have been able to identify a plaintiff, we have strong evidence showing the allegation is false. In January of this year, a woman attempted to blackmail Deshaun by demanding $30,000 in exchange for her “indefinite silence” about what she stated was a consensual encounter. It is our belief this woman is the plaintiff in Cause No. 2021-15613. (Please see the declaration by Bryan Burney below.) This calls into question the legitimacy of the other cases as well.
"We have received numerous unsolicited comments in the past week from many licensed massage therapists who have worked with Deshaun in recent years. These women describe him as a gentleman and a model client who never engaged in inappropriate conduct. Indeed, before these salacious claims, everyone who associated with Deshaun described him as an outstanding, respectful, and compassionate man.
"Again, we are taking the allegations very seriously and we ask only that people not rush to judgment, that people not be unduly influenced by opposing counsel’s antics, and that they let fundamental fairness to both sides rule the day. Thank you for your patience and understanding."
Declaration of Bryan Burney
- My name is Bryan Burney. I am the marketing manager for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, and have had this role for more than three years. I have personal knowledge of the facts stated in this declaration; they are true and correct.
- In mid-January 2021, I spoke with an individual who I believe is the Plaintiff, identified as “Jane Doe,” in Jane Doe v. Deshaun Watson, Cause No. 2021-15613, currently pending in Harris County, Texas. It is clear to me that the person I spoke with met with Deshaun on December 28, 2020, the same day that Jane Doe contends in her petition that she met with Deshaun. When I spoke with Ms. Doe in January, she stated that she wanted a “settlement” from Deshaun, though what exactly she wished to “settle” was not clear to me.
- During my discussions with Ms. Doe, I questioned the factual basis for the “settlement” that she was requesting from Deshaun. Ms. Doe informed me that she was asking to be paid $30,000 for what she referred to as “indefinite silence” about her encounter with Deshaun. I asked her what she would be silent about and whether anything had happened with Deshaun against her will. She confirmed that everything that occurred was consensual during her encounter with Deshaun. I asked Ms. Doe why Deshaun should pay for silence regarding something that was consensual – whatever it was. She said that it was a matter that both she and Deshaun would wish to keep secret and that she would need to be paid for her “silence.”
- After my conversation with Ms. Doe, I received a call from a man purporting to be her “business manager.” Ms. Doe’s business manager told me that her encounter with Deshaun would be embarrassing if revealed and that Deshaun should pay to keep the matter secret.
- I told this individual that his demand to be paid for not revealing a consensual interaction between two adults was extortion.
- He responded, “It’s not extortion, it’s blackmail.”
- I informed this individual that Deshaun would not be paying the $30,000 requested.
- In the years that I have known Deshaun, I have known him to be a respectful, decent human being. I do not believe him capable of the conduct that “Jane Doe” has anonymously accused him of in this case. This conduct is also completely inconsistent with multiple statements made by Jane Doe and by her “business manager,” indicating that her encounter with Deshaun involved only consensual activity.