Deshaun Watson, the star Houston Texans quarterback, on Monday officially rebutted the accusations of the 22 women who claim he engaged in sexual misconduct against them during massage therapy sessions, accusing those women in a civil court filing of fabricating their stories for money.
According to the filing, which addresses all 22 claims against Watson, “These lawsuits are replete with mischaracterizations of Mr. Watson’s conduct. These range from being misleading, to fraudulent, to slanderous.”
Watson received the names of all his accusers only last week, after the suits were filed against him anonymously beginning in mid-March. Two of his accusers voluntarily identified themselves in April and judges that month ruled that the women bringing suits against Watson must identify themselves, according to state law.
Since then, Watson and his lawyers have scrambled to investigate the accusers and their claims, and said in the court filing that they discovered evidence that “numerous allegations in this onslaught of cases are simply not true or accurate.” In rebutting some allegations, the filing said that eight of the women who have brought suit bragged about massaging Watson and seven “willingly worked or offered to work” with Watson after the alleged misconduct was said to have occurred, including one woman who showed up at his house to give him another massage even before he had booked an appointment with her.
The filing also claimed that some plaintiffs told others that they wanted to “get money out of” Watson, that some of the accusers lied about being traumatized by the conduct Watson’s accused of and that some scrubbed or deleted their social media accounts, disposing of evidence Watson would need to mount a proper defense.
“I truly believe that this is a cash grab against a wealthy athlete,” Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead lawyer, said Monday in a telephone interview. “If you’re asking, ‘Are you saying that all 22 are lying about whether he committed sexual misconduct?’ I sure am.”
Hardin said in an April 9 news conference that there were “some consensual encounters,” between Watson and his accusers.
Tony Buzbee, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Monday in a statement that Watson’s response to the accusations did nothing to help his cause. He called Watson’s “weak and vague” allegations against his accusers in Monday’s court filing “demonstrably false.”
“As fully anticipated and despite his lawyer’s previous statements, Deshaun Watson’s only defense is to call these brave women liars,” Buzbee said.
Monday’s court filing is just one step in a long legal process that could take months, if not more than a year, to conclude. The lawsuits have accused Watson, 25, of engaging in a pattern of lewd behavior with women he hired via social media platforms to give him massages this year and last. The claims accuse him of exposing himself during massages, moving his body in a way to make his female massage therapists touch his penis, or coercing the women to touch him in a sexual manner. In two of the cases, women say he forced them to perform oral sex.
At least one other massage therapist who had not brought suit against Watson publicly accused him of similar behavior, though she did not hire Buzbee to represent her. She told Sports Illustrated in late March that she was considering legal action.
The court document filed Monday said one of the two plaintiffs who accused Watson of forced sexual acts “sought to blackmail” Watson before suing him.
“She asked him to pay her $30,000 for ‘indefinite silence’ because her encounter would be ‘embarrassing’ if revealed,” the court filing said of one accuser.
That plaintiff also asked Watson’s marketing manager for a copy of the nondisclosure agreement that she and Watson had signed “because she did not want people in her industry to know she had provided oral sex to her massage client,” the filing said, adding that Watson has a recording of a phone call of a conversation in which she discusses her concerns.
Hardin, in Monday’s court document, requested a jury trial. He later explained that a trial might be the only way the public can weigh all the evidence and rightly decide what happened between Watson and the women he hired to massage him.
“I’m totally comfortable that if there is a jury trial one day, a jury will find every one of these accusations false,” Hardin said. “But if we have to resort to the court, it’s a long way away.”